Racist graffiti in Calgary’s southwest considered a hate crime: police

Click to play video: 'Hate-motivated messages target Calgary’s Sikh community'
Hate-motivated messages target Calgary’s Sikh community
WATCH: Calgary police are investigating a hate crime in the southwest. Over the weekend someone wrote insulting and derogatory messages outside of a Sikh temple. Jill Croteau reports – Oct 26, 2021

The Calgary Police Service (CPS) is classifying a racist graffiti incident in southwest Calgary a hate crime.

On Monday night, the words “diaper heads” and “cow f—ers” were found spray-painted on the road leading to the Sikh Society of Calgary‘s Gurdwara Sahib in the West Springs neighbourhood.

“It hurts your feelings,” president Balihar Singh Dhillon said. “I won’t lie, it does hurt us. But, at the same time, just closing your eyes – it will not solve the problem. You cannot put it under the rug. It has to be exposed.”

In a news release Tuesday afternoon CPS said it believes the graffiti was added sometime between 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 and 7 a.m. the next morning.

The two phrases had been written in white along 81 Street and Old Banff Coach Road S.W. with arrows pointing towards the gurdwara, which is at 739 – 81 St. S.W.

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“It is unacceptable that anyone in our community feels okay making such derogatory statements about their neighbours, even more so when they went out of their way to make sure that the people they targeted would see it,” said Sgt. Gareth Joels from the CPS hate crimes and extremism unit.

“No one should have to read messages like this on their way to worship or anywhere else in our city.”

In a tweet Monday night, the Dashmesh Cultural Centre said, “We are extremely disappointed and saddened to hear our (southwest) Gurdwara Sahib had racist graffiti sprayed outside on roads leading up to entrance.”

“While we believe this is the actions of a few, we encourage everyone to accept everyone as one and take the time to learn about your neighbors. Doors to our Gurdwara Sahib are open to all, we encourage you to visit and learn about Sikhi,” the organization said in the Twitter thread.

“While this display of Racism is very hurtful, we want to take this time for all of us to come to together and show support to all people regardless of background or beliefs.”

Calgary police are investigating after offensive graffiti was spray-painted on the road leading into the Dashmesh Culture Centre’s Gurdwara Sahib in the southwest Gurdwara Sahib of West Springs on Monday. Supplied

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Dhillon echoed the desire to bridge the divide between the act and building a better future.

“Punishing someone, it can breed more hatred and is not the way to solve the problems.

“If they see this news, they can come to me to the temple. We will not report you, we will just talk and make communications with each other and solve the problems.”

A number of politicians shared their thoughts and decried the vandalism, including Sikh community member and Calgary Forest Lawn MP Jasraj Singh Hallan.

“Despite being called many things throughout my life for wearing a turban, I still stood proud being in Canada free to express myself.”

“I stand with the Sikh Society of Calgary in condemning this act of hatred. Canadians always stand against intolerance,” Hallan said on Twitter.

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Newly sworn-in Mayor Jyoti Gondek said in a tweet Tuesday morning, the graffiti was “Disappointing (and) saddening, yet we must remain strong in our resolve to send a clear message that hate has no place in our world.

“I condemn this (and) will work with (Calgary city council) to deliver on our mandate of an anti-racist city.”

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On Tuesday afternoon Gondek publicly commented on the incident and reinforced her belief that the new city council reflects Calgary’s diverse population and will fight for an anti-racist agenda.

The mayor also explained this matter is one she can relate to.

“I am the child of Sikh parents. I know what it was like for my dad to be profiled because he wore a turban. And to see this kind of thing still happening all those years later is disappointing.”

Calgary-North East MLA and Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, whose own daughter was targeted in a hate attack this summer, said she was very sad, disappointed and disgusted by the behaviour.

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“(Dashmesh Culture Centre), you have been a beacon of hope for so many, particularly during Covid. Please continue in Chardi Kala and keep inspiring, educating and encouraging others!” the minister said in a tweet.

In Sikhism, chardi kala is the Punjabi saying for having a positive attitude or keeping one’s spirit high — for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy.

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Edmonton Mill Woods MP Tim Uppal, also a member of the Sikh faith, said it’s “extremely frustrating and disappointing to see hate-filled acts, like this, continuing to litter our country.”

“I stand with the Sikh Society of Calgary in condemning these actions in the strongest terms, and stand with Canadians against intolerance and hate,” he said on Facebook Tuesday morning.

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Advanced Education Minister and MLA for Calgary-Bow Demetrios Nicolaides offered his solidarity with the city’s Sikh community.

“The people who did this are nothing but intolerant lowlifes,” the minister tweeted Tuesday morning, pledging his support and assistance to the gurdwara.

One anti-racism group is calling for an honest evaluation of who we are as a community, saying people always express shock and ask how this could happen in their community.

“We need to now acknowledge that this too is reflective of our city and our country,” Jamilah Edwards with ActionDIgnity said. “And we must move past this cycle of hate incident, shock, and lack of action.

The Calgary Police Service diversity unit is working closely with the community, CPS confirmed.

“Graffiti that targets a particular racial or religious community has far-reaching effects in the community as it makes everyone who sees it question their sense of safety and belonging in our city.”

Anyone with information is ask to contact the Calgary police on their non-emergency line at 403-266-1234, or through Crime Stoppers.


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