'Shame on those responsible': Float in Sundre, Alta., rodeo parade called out as racist

·4 min read
Organizers of the Sundre Pro Rodeo said they are committed to ensuring future parade entries are reviewed. (Sundre Pro Rodeo/Facebook - image credit)
Organizers of the Sundre Pro Rodeo said they are committed to ensuring future parade entries are reviewed. (Sundre Pro Rodeo/Facebook - image credit)

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

Politicians and community members have criticized a parade float that appeared in a southern Alberta rodeo over the weekend in which a man with a fake beard and turban is seen riding in a manure spreader with the words "The Liberal" pasted on its side.

Photos of the float, taken Saturday at the Sundre Pro Rodeo, show a man wearing a mask driving the tractor that's pulling the manure spreader.

The photos sparked condemnation from a Sikh group and MPs from across the political spectrum.

George Chahal, the Liberal MP for Calgary Skyview, tweeted, "Sikhs have been a steadfast force for good in Alberta and across the country. Shame on those responsible for this despicable display of racism."

The Dashmesh Culture Centre in Calgary, a Sikh community hub, tweeted it is "extremely disappointed and saddened to witness this horrendous display of racism towards the Sikh community."

In a statement posted on the parade organizers' Facebook page, officials said they were not aware that this float was going to be in the parade.

"The entry was not approved and upon further investigation joined the parade without passing through any registration. To be clear it was not approved," read the statement from the parade committee.

The committee added that they are committed to making sure future entries are reviewed and this doesn't happen again.

Facebook post on the rodeo organizers' page said: "if we knew about that float, we would have never approved it! We do send our deepest apologies and something like that will never happen again."

Some people who commented on the apology questioned the accusation of racism, noting the man in the turban and beard, who was not in blackface, was meant to depict federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as a Liberal lapdog.

On Monday, the post on the rodeo organizers' page had either been deleted or removed from public view.

Organizers for the rodeo have not responded to requests from CBC News for an interview.

Jasraj Singh Hallan, Conservative MP for Calgary Forest Lawn also spoke out on Twitter about the float.

"This is absolutely disgusting. These kinds of acts have no place in Canada. This should be condemned in strongest terms by all," he wrote.

Mike Crampton, who lives in Didsbury, attended the parade on Saturday to cheer on his daughter, who is a member of the Calgary Roundup Marching Band. He took a photo of the float that the Airdronian, a blog based out of Airdrie, posted online.

Crampton said he shared the image because he felt it was important to speak out about the float, which he called "terrible."

"We do have to call this stuff out. It shouldn't be normalized. It shouldn't be something people think is OK to do."

Crampton added that while he heard no loud cheers when the float went by, there wasn't a chorus of boos either.

"It does give small towns a bad name," he said.

"I would like it to be a thing that people don't think is true about small towns, that [they are] full of racists, because [they aren't]. But when stuff like this happens, you know, it overshadows the whole thing and it's frustrating."

In a statement provided to CBC News on Monday, a woman who said she provided a piece of equipment for the float said it "had absolutely nothing to do with racism."

The woman, who would not identify herself but said she is a Sundre rancher, said the float had "everything to do with a laugh after two years of lockdown by the Liberal government, supported by the NDP.

"It was a political satire, just like you see in newspapers and publications," said the woman, who refused to answer multiple questions posed by CBC News.

Jason Nixon, Alberta finance minister and MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre, who attended the parade on Saturday, denounced the float in an emailed statement to CBC.

"I strongly condemn the racist float that appeared in the Sundre parade," read the statement.

"Discrimination and racism have no place in Sundre or anywhere in Alberta. I have been assured by parade organizers that this float was not approved, and that they are putting measures in place to ensure this does not happen in the future."

Organizers for the rodeo, which takes place about 90 kilometres northwest of Calgary, said on Facebook the parade "is meant to be a celebration of community."

"The committee is committed to celebrating community and showcasing a positive family experience," they added.

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