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Politics

‘It becomes insulting’: Scheer called out for using wrong photo in Sikh holiday post

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer addresses supporters after he lost to Justin Trudeau in the federal election in Regina, Sask., Oct. 21, 2019. .
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer addresses supporters after he lost to Justin Trudeau in the federal election in Regina, Sask., Oct. 21, 2019. . Todd Korol/Reuters

UPDATE:  This story has been updated to include that the photo was deleted from Twitter and Facebook.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is being called out over a social media post that was meant to mark a Sikh celebration — but used an image of another festival instead.

The erroneous tweet and Facebook post, published on Sunday, were flagged by social media users but were not addressed by the party.

Global News reached out to Conservative party spokesman Simon Jefferies over email on the error, but did not hear back by publication. However, Scheer’s tweet was deleted after the Global News inquiry. The photo was also removed from Facebook.

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Bandi Chhor Divas, a Sikh holiday, is meant to celebrate the release of Sri Guru Hargobind, and other prisoners, from captivity.

However, the photo used in the tweet is from a Theyyam ritual in Kerala, India. Theyyam, which has several variations, celebrates Hindu deities.

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Balpreet Singh, the legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada, told Global News that the mix-up isn’t ideal, but it’s the delay in taking action that is more concerning.

“We thought it was just a mix-up and a few people tweeted about it online. We also added our voice saying that the picture needs to be switched out,” Singh told Global News.

“But after almost 48 hours, there’s been no movement.”

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Singh said the organization tweeted at Scheer, asking for the image to be fixed. The organization also contacted members of the Conservative party directly flagging the issue.

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The same image on Scheer’s Facebook page also prompted responses from users flagging the problem.

“The image shown by Andrew Scheer in this has nothing to do with Sikh religion. This is a gross misrepresentation,” a user named Ajit Singh wrote.

Another user wrote: “That picture has absolutely nothing to do with Bandi Chhor Divas…”

Singh said the delay in making the change is “insulting” to Sikh Canadians.

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“The purpose of these greetings is to show that the party cares about the community, but when they don’t care to get embedded and make sure that they’ve got the right message or the right image, it becomes insulting,” he noted.

Jaskaran Singh Sandhu, who is a senior consultant at Crestview Strategies and the director of administration at the World Sikh Organization, was among those who tweeted at Scheer asking for change.

He told Global News that he contacted Conservative MPs and other members of the party on the photo, who expressed concern to him. However, nothing was done after he had those conversations.

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Sandhu said he appreciates that politicians take the time to post celebratory messages, but finds that they are not always well-constructed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued the same statement about Bandi Chhor Divas and the Hindu celebration of Diwali, which are separate events.

“The respectful thing would be to do two separate statements because they are separate occasions,” Sandhu said. “We wouldn’t expect any different from any other background or festival.”

What is Diwali?
What is Diwali?

“If politicians, irrespective of political stripes, want to show that they’re actually sincerely marking the occasion with fellow Canadians, it should be done in a more considerate way,” he said.

Global News has emailed the Prime Minister’s Office for comment.