One Canada, One Citizen

Written by Randeep Singh

It’s Canada Day, a good time to reflect on what Canada means to us. I immigrated to Canada like many before and after me. I became a citizen. I am proud to be Canadian.

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (better known as Bill C-24), hasn’t made me any less proud to be Canadian, even if it does put me in a different class of citizenship.

All countries differentiate between citizens and foreign nationals or citizens and permanent residents. Canada previously revoked citizenship if it was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation. This was in accordance with the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; but, differentiating between citizens?

The French Revolution developed the modern idea of the “citizen.” The Revolution sought to create a society where people (men) existed as equal citizens before law, not as subjects with differing privileges. In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt referred to citizenship as the “right to have rights,” the right to belong to a political community and have one’s rights protected by that community. In a 1997 ruling, Justice Iacobucci for the Supreme Court of Canada stated, “I cannot imagine an interest more fundamental to full membership in Canadian society than Canadian citizenship.”

In differentiating between different classes of Canadian citizens and in revoking (or maintaining) their citizenship status accordingly, the Government of Canada (the Conservative Party of Canada) is not only revoking a legal status; it is revoking all constitutionally enshrined rights associated with such status.

The law apparently infringes equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by discriminating between Canadians (individuals and groups) on the basis of national and ethnic origin. There are all sorts of practical and humanitarian concerns to consider. How can the government send de-nationalized persons “back” to a country which does not receive them? Can it return a person back to a country where he or she may be persecuted?

The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act is an act of splintering Canadian citizenship. It creates different classes of citizenship (for different reasons) just as states in the Deep South of the United States created different classes of American citizens through legal discrimination.

I can only take comfort that it will be challenged and under the grounds of the Constitution of Canada which affirms the equality of Canadians, regardless of their differences.

Further Reading:

Works Cited:

“Revocation of Citizenship after the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act,” Peter Edelmann in Immigration Issues: Not Business as Usual, (Continuing Legal Education Society of BC, 2014).

Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the Wake of Komagata Maru


Written by Randeep Singh

Surrey Art Gallery is hosting “Ruptures in Arrival,” an exhibition marking the Komagata Maru centenary.

What’s refreshing about this exhibition becomes apparent from its introduction. The Komagata Maru is not just the story of one religious or cultural group. It is the story of all peoples who have migrated to Canada, only to be deemed illegal, or unfit for entry and sent away.

The exhibition contextualizes the Komagata Maru in time through Ali Kazimi’s short-film presenting vignettes on the lives of South Asians in B.C. in 1914. The journey of the Komagata Maru is also represented in space by Avantika Bawa who traces the routes taken by the ship on a cascading fabric.

There is a video presentation of “Mass Arrival,” a live enactment by five Toronto artists of the expulsion of a cargo ship of Tamil refugees featuring (white) residents of Toronto. The video presentation is surrounded by walls of tabloid print-outs; headlines illustrate Canada’s phobia towards refugees and migrants, including acrid political cartoons on the never-ending Yellow Peril. The introduction to the exhibit reminds us not only of the Chinese refugees from Fujian who were turned away in 1999 but of the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany whom Canada turned away in 1939.

I end with “Four Boats Stranded,” a model exhibition of Ken Lam’s work. In 2001, Lam constructed and had positioned four ships facing four directions atop the Vancouver Art Gallery of which one was the Komagata Maru. Looking at those ships, with all the exhibits in the gallery, one remembers the journeys that made Canada and the continuous journey of defining oneself in an ever migrating world.

White Canada Forever

chinese head tax

This year marks the centenary of the Komagata Maru incident. The celebration of that centenary has been marked by some as a historic episode in the story of Indians and Punjabi Sikhs in Canada.

The Komagata Maru however is not the history of any one ethnic or religious group: it is the history of Canada. It is a page in a chapter of Canada’s history whereby English-speaking Canadians sought to create a Canada of English values, traditions, language, law and institutions from sea to sea, a “White Canada Forever.”

There had been earlier attempts to exclude, marginalize or assimilate the aboriginal communities and the French in Canada. The Indian, like the Chinese and Japanese however, was considered an alien and unassimilable breed. His arrival on the west coast moreover threatened to bring hordes of Orientals to the shores of British Columbia.

What followed was the advent of exclusion towards Asian immigrants in British Columbia: the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885 and the Chinese Head Tax; the Komagata Maru incident; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 which completely banned Chinese migration to Canada until 1947, and the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage in 1942 to name a few. The exclusion of undesirables was not limited to Asians. It included denying entry to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and the internment of Italian-Canadians during the second world war.

H.G. Wells once said that history more and more becomes a race between education and catastrophe. Our history demonstrates that we have never been a multicultural utopia. We have our tragedies, follies and regrets like any country. Let’s open our eyes to the Komagata Maru, the Chinese Head Tax, the Indian Residential Schools, so we don’t close them again. Let’s remember them as the history of Canada, our reminder as how to best move forward.

Further Reading: Peter Ward, White Canada Forever (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990).

The Quebec Charter (and other secularisms)

quebec veil

The controversy over the Charter of Quebec Values got me interested in where Quebec stands as a secular society in comparison to other societies, including the rest of Canada.




  • Historical: The Wars of Religion (1648) prompted European states to recognize the need for a public domain regulated by non-clerical rules. The French Revolution (1789) saw the creation of the First Republic with all individuals as equal citizens under the law. The Civic Code of 1805 established the supremacy of the republic and state law; and the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State institutionalized the policy of state secularism in France.
  • French Constitution (1958): “France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic”: religion is a private matter; the public domain is governed by the idea of republic citizenship and by an active state implementing the separation of religion from public citizenship
  • Law: law banning headscarves and conspicuous religious symbols  (2004).

France (flag)


  • Historical: the Turkish defeat in World War I and the break-up of the empire (plus the cooperation between the Caliph and the allied powers) saw the Turkish political establishment reject the caliphate and a religious state; Kemal Ataturk westernized Turkish political and legal system (including the French model of secularism)
  • Turkish Republic and Nation: indivisible, secular with “active neutrality” of state (the Islamic religion is regulated by the state)
  • Law: in June 2008, Turkey’s Constitutional Court annulled the Parliament’s proposed amendment to lift the ban on headscarves, ruling that such an amendment violated the founding principles of the Turkish Constitution.


  • Historical: Traditional Roman-Catholic society became increasingly secularized during the Quiet Revolution of 1960s onwards; ongoing movement to preserve distinctiveness of Quebec culture in Canada;
  • Law/Politics: 1977, Charter of the French Language (French as only official language of province);1982, Quebec only province not to assent to patriation of Canadian Constitution; National Assembly (Quebec) vote that people of Quebec form a nation (2003); 2013, Quebec Charter = bid for “distinctive” society and society?


The “democratic” (rather than ‘republican’) model of secularism prevails in European protestant countries. Protestantism itself began as a dissident movement, giving rise to other dissident sects. The resulting dissidence among different groups in these countries forced the state to eventually tolerate those differences, rather than in France where the struggle between an all-powerful church and the state resulted in the state victorious and an ensuing tradition of anti-clericalism.


  • Historical: The United States established a secular state with no hostility toward religion; there has been a history of good relationships between church and the state;
  • First Amendment: no official religion and no prohibition of free exercise of religion;
  • Symbolic and ceremonial use of Christianity (in God we Trust); religious customs (use of bible) in courts and oath of President (not law).


  • Historical: Official religion remains the Church of England use of Christian symbolism associated with the Monarchy; otherwise, a highly and increasingly secular society since World War II;
  • Multi-religious with an ongoing controversy regarding multiculturalism as policy (teaching of religions in school, recognition of Sikh kirpans in public places, establishment of Shariah Courts).

turban bus stop


  • Historical: Canada’s official recognition for two languages and “founding” nations has been accompanied by an increasing recognition of rights of Aboriginals and minority groups since the 1970s.
  • Law: Official policy of multiculturalism in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988) including minorities’ rights to enjoy own cultures; religious freedoms and (equality) rights are subject to the limits justified in “free and democratic society.”



  • Historical: India is a multi-religious society where all religions continue to be practiced in their traditional form. The Partition of 1947 helped encourage the rise of a secular state which sought to protect the rights of the minorities while proclaiming no official religion
  • State maintains a “principled distance” from religion (Bhargava): the Indian Constitution allows freedom of religion subject to health (harmful religious practices), law and order; religious pluralism and equality of all religions.
  • Law: recognition of separate personal laws for religious groups; no uniform civil code (1985 Shah Bano case);

Further Reading:

Rajeev Bhargava (ed.), Secularism and Its Critics (Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1998).

Charles Taylor, “Modes of Secularism,” in Secularism and its Critics, 31-53.

Jean Bauberot, “The Two Thresholds of Laicization,” in Secularism and its Critics, 94-136.

D.E. Smith, “India as a Secular State,” in Secularism and its Critics, 177-233.

Rajeev Bhargava, “What is Secularism For?” in Secularism and its Critics, 486-542.

Written by Randeep Singh

Call for Submissions: Vallum Magazine for Pakistani Poetry-Aug 31/11

Vallum Magazine is featuring a special issue on PAKISTANI POETRY
(Vol. 9:1 fall/winter 2011)

VALLUM 9:1 – PAKISTANThis special edition of Vallum will feature poetry, essays, and/or interviews from a Pakistani origin or perspective.

Also seeking submissions of unpublished work on any aspect of Pakistani poetry by Canadian or Landed Immigrants of Pakistani origin or Canadians interested in Pakistan.

DEADLINE: August 31, 2011

General Submission Guidelines
Vallum magazine is interested in poetry, prose poems, concrete poems, essays, interviews and reviews on poetry.

Length of submissions
Poetry : 4-7 poems Essay : 5-6 pages
Interview : 3-5 pages
Review : 1-3 pages
Letter to the editor : up to 1 page
Art : B&W or colour (art work must be available in high-resolution printout or electronic format.)

Vallum is interested in work that is
Original and previously unpublished.
Poetry that’s fresh and edgy, something that reflects contemporary experience and is also well-crafted.
Open to most styles – experimental and traditional.

Acquires First North American Serial Rights.
No simultaneous submissions.
Essay and review submissions must follow North American, MLA Style guidelines. Artwork can be colour and/or black and white. Colour is preferred for covers; black and white preferred to be featured inside magazine, but will consider colour.
Vallum is published twice a year.
Poems are accepted by regular mail only.
Essays, reviews, interviews, letters to the editor and art work can be sent by regular mail or through our Online Submission page.

P.O. Box 598, Victoria Stn
Montreal, Quebec
H3Z 2Y6

Vallum Society for Arts & Letters Education

URGENT: Vancouver RALLY Sat 2PM – Gaza Flotilla Boats stopped in Greece

URGENT: Call to a RALLY in Vancouver
Authorities in Greece have stopped flotilla boats from sailing

Greek and Canadian governments complicit in Gaza blockade
Stop War:

You might have already heard the news coming from Greece that the Tahrir together with the US ship have been prevented from leaving the Greek port and that one Canadian has been threatened with being arrested. You can see our press release below.

Rallies are being organized across Canada to protest against the actions of the Greek government that is obviously giving in to Israel’s pressure. Of course the Canadian government is complicit by not guaranteeing the safety of Canadians.

The date for the rally:
Saturday July 2
2 pm
In front of the CBC at Georgia and Hamilton

Other suggested actions include:

Write to our MPs. The Canadian Government needs to know that they are complicit in the coercion. And that they have a responsibility by international convention, to protect the Canadians on the Flotilla. We have a letter template for you to use to send to MPs reminding them that the Canadian government has obligations under the Geneva Convention.

Write to Greek officials. Greek government officials are to be asked to clarify whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to Israeli and other governments’ pressure. We will ask that they not be complicit in the massive human rights violations by Israel against the people of Gaza. We will ask them to defend human rights and not fall to the pressure of Israel and other governments – who are playing with the lives and livelihoods of Greeks and Palestinians.


For Immediate Release
July 1, 2011
The blockade of Gaza reaches the shores of Greece!As it attempts to sail, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Tahrir, blockaded in Greece

Greek coast guard are now on board the Tahrir attempting to arrest Sandra Rush, Jewish Canadian member of the Canada boat to Gaza Steering Committee, who is refusing to surrender boat’s registration papers.

Efforts to stop Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human from sailing have included diplomatic pressure and manipulation, economic blackmail, bureaucratic obstacles, baseless and slanderous allegations against the flotilla and the delegates, and sabotage of at least two vessels.

“The world watched as an intensive campaign to prevent the Tahrir and the entire Freedom flotilla II from sailing was underway. We have been unjustly and duplicitously treated.” said Irene MacInnes of the Tahrir organizing committee. “The government of Israel, shamefully with the tacit support of the Harper government, is doing everything in its power to maintain the blockade. Today, as a result of the concerted efforts of the 4th largest military power in the world and its backers, we have been prevented from sailing to Gaza. Yet we will persevere in our attempts till the blockade is lifted.”

“Israel has in effect extended the illegal blockade of Gaza to Greek ports, using the Greece’s economic difficulties to influence the government’s position”, said David Heap of the organizing committee.

“We remain absolutely clear that the Canadian Boat to Gaza has not been, is not, and has no intention of, breaking any laws. It is the blockade of Gaza that is illegal under international law. We have a legal and moral obligation to challenge the blockade, given the failure of the international community to act”, said Dylan Penner of the organizing committee. “This is why we must continue our attempts to sail to Gaza: to challenge the illegal and immoral blockade and to equally challenge the Canadian federal government’s support for it.”

Meanwhile the US boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, is at a standoff with the Greek Navy boats, refusing orders to return to shore.

For biographies of delegates aboard the Tahrir visit:

Watch tonight’s Jean Chrétien rally live online‏

Federal Election Canada 2011: A Liberal Party of Canada Announcement

It’s your chance to be a part of history — and rise up for Canada with Liberals coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Jean Chrétien will be joining me for a Rise Up for Canada Rally tonight in Toronto, and we’ll be streaming the event live online for all to see.

You can tune in to watch on Facebook at 8pm EDT at

Don’t worry, you don’t need a Facebook account to follow along. But if you do have one, you can comment, and join the conversation with Canadians tuned in from all across the country.

Jean Chrétien is one of the great Liberal heroes of our time. And he is an inspiration to us all. I know we will draw great strength from his words as we gear up to fight harder than ever in the coming days.

Because we Liberals are proud. Our history is proud. And we believe passionately in our vision, in our candidates, and in the commitment of our team, down to every last volunteer and supporter.

Let’s show the country that the Liberal Party is energized and ready for election day.

It’s time to put an end to the Harper regime, and bring progressive, responsible government back to Ottawa.

RSVP for a reminder at and see you online at 8pm EDT.

Thank you.
Michael Ignatieff

PS. If you happen to be in Toronto, please join us in person instead!

National Office
Liberal Party of Canada
81 Metcalfe Street, Suite 600
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6M8
Phone : (613) 237-0740
Fax : (613) 235-7208
email :

Version française
Écoutez le ralliement avec Jean Chrétien sur Facebook ce soir

Voilà le moment d’entrer dans l’histoire – et vous rallier pour le Canada avec des libéraux à travers le pays.

Jean Chrétien se joindra à moi de soir pour « Debout pour le Canada », un ralliement à Toronto diffusé en direct en ligne.

Vous pourrez écouter l’événement sur Facebook à 20:00 HAE au

Ne vous inquiétez pas, vous n’avez pas besoin d’un compte Facebook pour suivre la diffusion. Mais si vous en avez un, vous pouvez partager vos commentaires et vous joindre à la conversation avec des Canadiens à travers le pays.

M. Chrétien est un des grands héros libéraux modernes. Il nous inspire tous. Je sais que nous tirerons beaucoup d’énergie de ses propos ce soir alors que nous nous préparons pour la lutte des prochains jours.

Nous sommes fiers d’être des libéraux. Nous sommes fiers de notre histoire. Nous croyons passionnément dans notre vision, dans nos candidats et dans l’engagement de notre équipe jusqu’au dernier bénévole.

Montrons à tout le pays que le Parti libéral est énergique et prêt pour le jour de l’élection.

C’est le temps de mettre fin au régime Harper et de ramener un gouvernement progressiste et responsable à Ottawa.

RSVP pour un rappel dès maintenant au et au plaisir de vous voir en ligne à 20:00 HAE.

Michael Ignatieff

P.-S. Si vous serez à Toronto, n’hésitez pas à vous joindre à nous.

Bureau national
Parti libéral du Canada
81, rue Metcalfe, bureau 600
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6M8
Téléphone : (613) 237-0740
Télécopieur : (613) 235-7208
Courriel :

Funding Cuts by Harper Government: Election Update

Federal Election Canada 2011

List of Women’s Organizations whose funding has been cut or ended by the Harper Government

1.    Aboriginal Healing Foundation
(cuts affected several healing centres that focused on providing support to abused women, such as the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal)
2.    Action travail des femmes
3.    Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
4.    Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
5.    Canadian Child Care Federation
6.    Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
7.    Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition féminine
8.    Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
9.    Child Care Resource and Research Unit, SpeciaLink
10.  Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
11.  Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto
(funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
12.  Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
13.  First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
14.  International Planned Parenthood Federation
15.  Marie Stopes International
(a maternal health agency, has received only a promise of “conditional” funding IF it avoids any & all connection with abortion)
16.  MATCH International
17.  National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
18.  Native Women’s Association of Canada
19.  New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
20.  Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
21.  Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
22.  Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
23.  Riverdale Immigrant Women’s Centre, Toronto
24.  Sisters in Spirit
25.  South Asian Women’s Centre
26.  Status of Women Canada
(mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying)
27.  Tri-Country Women’s Centre Society
28.  Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
29.  Women for Community Economic Development in Southwest Nova Scotia (WCEDSN)
30.  Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
31.  Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
32. Older Women’s Network
33. Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre (KWRC)
34. Réseau action femmes
For a PDF of this list , please click here.

To add another name to this list, please email the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights.

The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights

Punjabi Writers Page at Uddari

View the new Punjabi Writers page that aspires to compile a database of Punjabi writers and artists anywhere in the world.

It is a matter of pride for Uddari that our first entry is Punjabi Canadian Poet/Playwright/Cultural Activist Ajmer Rode of Vancouver who has contributed much to the development of Punjabi literature and Punjabi literary community in Canada.

If you are writing in Punjabi please be supportive of this effort, and enter your information in the text box at the end of Punjabi Writers page.

You can also paste text in an email message, attach photos as .gif or .jpeg files, and send it to Fauzia Rafiq at

Punjabi Literature