Immigration Watch, which published the flyers, insists the “from this … to this” message, with photos of white Canadians and Sikh protesters, isn’t racist.
In Brampton, set to launch Sikh Heritage Month on Friday, residents a stone’s throw from city hall were shocked this week to find on their doorsteps anti-immigration flyers highlighting the Sikh community.
“Racism is real; it’s still here. People have the fallacy that it’s ended and stopped. It’s very much not that,” said Wellington St. resident Jamal Jones, who discovered the flyer on his door earlier this week.
Jones, 23, a second-generation Jamaican Canadian, found it offensive and racist. He decided to draw attention to this unacceptable act by posting a photo on Facebook, which later got picked up on Twitter and went viral.
“We should not judge people based on religion, race or skin colour,” said the actor and retail clerk. “We should judge by character and should not paint anyone with a broad brush.”
The flyer depicts a black-and-white photo of an all-white group with the caption “From this,” above a colour photo of a group of angry Sikh protesters, with the caption “To this.” It cites Census data suggesting Brampton’s “mainstream Canadian” population dropped from 59.6 per cent in 2001 to 32.9 per cent in 2011.
At the bottom, it says: “Is This Really What You Want? Let’s Make Immigration Work For The Interests Of Canadians Again!” It then invites people to visit the website of Immigration Watch Canada.
Dan Murray, a spokesperson and co-founder of Immigration Watch, confirmed to the Star that the group produced the flyers but insisted that its message is reasonable and not racist.
“The purpose of the flyer is to say there is a cultural limit to the number of people any part of Canada could accept,” he said from British Columbia, where the group was founded in the late 1990s. He said the group has “tens of thousands” of followers who subscribe to its online newsletters.
Canada has been taking in 250,000 immigrants a year for two decades, but Ottawa has never provided justification for that policy, he said.
Murray said the group’s Brampton members had distributed the same flyers several months ago and placed hundreds this week. The photo showing Sikhs was used because they make up “the majority of the population in Brampton,” he noted.
The group did not say where it distributed the flyers, but it seems to focus on older areas of the city where longtime residents of European descent are concentrated.
Gurmeet Singh, an activist in Brampton’s Sikh community, said people were upset by the flyer and pointed out that the photo of Sikh men was actually taken at a protest in India.
“This is just not acceptable in the city of Brampton, in Canada,” he said.
Councillor Vicky Dhillon, who is also of Sikh heritage, said he was shocked Canadians would spread this kind of message.
“Sikhs have lived in Canada for more than 100 years. We are in every professional sector in the society. We are in 2014, and people are still talking about these things,” said Dhillon, adding that residents should come out to the Sikh Heritage Month celebration Friday evening in a show of solidarity against bigotry.
“We accept everyone in Brampton, and we don’t have any problem in our neighbourhoods. And these are the people who create problems for the community,” he said, referring to those who distribute such material.
Peel Region police spokesperson Const. Thomas Ruttan said the force only learned of the flyers Thursday morning and are investigating whether the publication breaks the law.
Murray characterized people who criticize the flyer’s message as offensive and racist as “cowards.”
“For long-term Canadians to say that, they are cowards. They are trying to be politically correct,” Murray said. “They are afraid to express criticisms over our immigration because they are conditioned to respond to immigration only in a positive way.”