Calgary Sikhs plan motorbike rally to Sundre in goodwill gesture after float controversy

·2 min read
Dashmesh Culture Centre president Amanpreet Singh Gill says his community is to visit Sundre in person to send a message to send a message of
Dashmesh Culture Centre president Amanpreet Singh Gill says his community is to visit Sundre in person to send a message to send a message of

WARNING: This story contains images that readers may find distressing and offensive.

Members of Alberta's Sikh community will travel en masse to the town of Sundre this month for what they call a goodwill gesture following the appearance of a widely criticized float at the town's rodeo weekend parade earlier this summer.

"We would like to send a message of oneness and peace," said Amanpreet Singh Gill,  president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre, a Sikh temple in Calgary's northeast.

"An unfortunate event happened in Sundre which depicted a Sikh individual in a manner which was not appropriate," Gill added. "Our community was very disappointed to see the display and it hurt our community."

More than 100 Sikh motorcycle riders and others will travel 120 kilometres northwest from Calgary on Sept. 10 to make a goodwill gesture of donations to the local food bank and church organizations.

"This is a great opportunity for our community and the town of Sundre to come together and show people, regardless of their faith, background and beliefs, that we can work together to make the world a better place," said Gill.

The ride comes in response to a float that appeared in a parade in the town in June.

The float included a white man, dressed up in a fake beard and turban, who sat on a manure spreader that had the words "The Liberal" written on the side, supposedly depicting NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

He was being pulled by a tractor with another man wearing a rubber mask, representing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Organizers said the float was never approved to take part in the parade.

Videos on social media showed some in the crowd cheering and applauding the float and others took to social media to register their support, calling it political satire.

But the float was also widely criticized as racist, including by Jason Nixon, Alberta finance minister and UCP MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, and George Chahal, the Liberal MP for Calgary Skyview.

Gill says while some supported the float, many others in the town were supportive of the Sikh community in the aftermath of the parade, reaching out with calls and emails. He says the Sikh community wants to do something positive for the town in return.

Gill says they will meet with local politicians and community leaders in the town, including the town's mayor, Richard Warnock.

"The RCMP detachment commander contacted our administration to advise them of this event and we spoke to their organizer," said Warnock.

"They're going to do up a pretty big event and we thought that's a nice idea. It's really their gesture of friendship," he said.

"I don't see any negativity. Let them come and it will be great," said Warnock.

Gill says the motorbike ride will become an annual event.