City apologizes, seeks to rectify job loss after ‘clean-shave’ policy under fire by Sikh advocacy group

Reasonable accommodation in action with “under-mask beard covers”:

First came the Tuesday afternoon phone call and apology from Toronto Mayor John Tory. Now, Birkawal Singh Anand wants his job back.

Anand was one of more than 100 Sikh guards laid off from the security companies contracted to staff City-operated shelters and respite sites after the guards refused to follow a City mandate requiring they be clean-shaven in order for a tight-fitting N95 mask be worn in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

On Tuesday, Toronto issued a press release apologizing and saying that security guards should be rehired and paid for lost wages. “City of Toronto apologizes to the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) for any delay in addressing this issue and ensuring security contractors were offering religious accommodations.”

The city said it was providing the update to “ensure security contractors accommodate all employees following a complaint from the World Sikh Organization of Canada.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a public outcry to make this change but I still appreciate that it is happening,” Anand said Tuesday night.

“The city did their part, now it’s up to the company to do theirs.”

Demanding that a Sikh shave his beard is like asking a non-Sikh to “peel off their skin,” Anand told the Star Monday.

“I told them, I belong to the Sikh community, shaving is not an option for me.”

The job losses began in April, the new release said. City staff had been inspecting work sites and deducting billable hours from contracted security companies for having employees who were not clean shaven.

The WSO complained about the layoffs in June, saying security service providers did not offer appropriate accommodation to their employees who have facial hair for religious reasons. The complaint was sent to city staff to resolve, sources said. Now, Toronto says it will allow the guards to wear “under-mask beard covers” as a “reasonable accommodation.”

That covering uses a “tight-fitting mask over a beard that covers the chin and cheeks, and ties in a knot at the top of the head,” the city’s release said.

“An N95 mask is then worn over the cover. The technique, also known as the Singh Thattha Method, is used by many Sikh people in the medical community and has been found to be highly effective in respirator fit testing.”

Before his 4 p.m. phone call to Anand, the release said Tory called the WSO to say the under-masking practice will go into effect “immediately.”

“This option was proposed by the World Sikh Organization of Canada and the City is grateful for this information. The City is also committed to followup meetings with the organization,” the release said.

Balpreet Singh Boparai, the lawyer for the WSO, said the organization received a call on Tuesday from Tory.

“He confirmed that the security guards could return to their jobs and the City would work with the security contractors to make it possible,” Boparai said.

The job losses may not be so easily resolved, he added.

“We are still waiting for the security contractors to get this message. A number of Sikh security guards had their shifts cancelled and they have not been invited to return to their positions.”

Source: City apologizes, seeks to rectify job loss after ‘clean-shave’ policy under fire by Sikh advocacy group

Indo-Canadian women give birth to far more boys than women born in Canada

Interesting and disturbing study:

The research, presented in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the online CMAJ Open, looks at more than 6 million births in Canada and reveals that a greater presence of boys among Indian-born mothers may in part be linked to abortions in the second trimester, when parents can learn the baby’s sex.

The birth data was compiled from databases administered by Statistics Canada and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto between 1990 and 2011, and 1993 to 2012, respectively.

“The main implication is that among some immigrant communities, males are placed at a higher value than females. This is not just about abortions, it is about gender equality,” said lead author Marcelo Urquia of St. Michael’s Hospital. “I hope that this is conducive to a respectful debate on the value of girls and women in today’s Canadian society.”

His study newly exposes a relationship between induced abortions and the previously reported large numbers of boys among Ontario’s Indian community, said Urquia, noting the data likely explains an imbalance in the rest of Canada too. Some of the “deficit” of girls may be due to “implantation of male embryos,” said Urquia, but the data is insufficient.

While the natural odds of having a boy over a girl are slightly higher, they are consistent across the globe: up to 107 boys for every 100 girls. But Indian-born mothers living in Canada with two children had 138 boys for every 100 girls. In Ontario, that number inflated even more among Indian-born women with two daughters, who then gave birth to 196 boys for every 100 girls.

After abortions, the numbers rise dramatically: 326 boys after one abortion, 409 boys after multiple abortions, and 663 boys for every 100 girls following multiple abortions in the second trimester, when doctors can determine the sex of the fetus.

Miscarriages, or spontaneous abortions, were not linked to the births of more boys, the study found.

The implication is that the disproportionate ratios are a result of “sex discrimination fuelled by son preference” among people from Asian countries, particularly India, whose immigrants have the highest documented male to female ratio in the world, the study says. The new research focuses on immigrants from India as they contribute the most to immigrant births in the country, though disproportionate male births have been observed in other communities as well. The research found an imbalance among Chinese immigrants, but this could not be linked to abortion.

Data did not indicate how long Indian immigrants had lived in Canada and whether that impacted the sex ratio. Nor did it indicate what country the baby’s grandparents were from. These are questions for future research, said Urquia.

“We are currently looking at whether the skewed sex ratios diminish with time after immigration. The idea is that exposure to a more gender equal environment, such as Canada, will result in placing more value on females over time,” he said.

With this new research, it’s no longer a question of whether prenatal sex discrimination exists. It is evident over the last two decades across Canada. The “real question,” said researcher Abdool S. Yasseen III in a published commentary on the studies, is “why this practice persists, particularly in a Canadian society that espouses sex equality.”

For Baldev Mutta, CEO of Brampton’s Punjabi Community Health Services, it’s a question he and other community leaders will have to face. With this new research, he says, it is “time for some soul searching,” in the country’s Indian community.

Source: Indo-Canadian women give birth to far more boys than women born in Canada | Toronto Star

Mr. Trudeau: Don’t be so quick to brag about Sikhs in your cabinet – Ramesh Thakur

The latest complaint regarding the number of Sikhs in Cabinet (the selection of Parliamentary Secretaries somewhat addressed under-represented groups – see my deck Big Shift or Big Return? Visible Minority Representation in the 2015 Election for the numbers):

India is an exemplar par excellence of power sharing and political accommodation in a multi-ethnic, multireligious society. In a country where 80 per cent of the people are Hindus, at one point the heads of government, state and army were a Sikh, Muslim and Sikh respectively; and the real power behind the throne was an Italian-born Catholic widow. Diversity and pluralism have no better champion. At the official White House banquet hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama for India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – a Sikh – on Nov, 24, 2009, a glittering new dimension of Indian soft power was in evidence with the presence of many Indian and Indian-American women from the political, business, literary, cultural and educational worlds.

Sikhs make up under 2 per cent of India’s population, so two Sikhs in Mr. Modi’s cabinet is a better reflection of India’s diversity than four in Mr. Trudeau’s is of Canada’s demographic makeup. In fact the Congress Party, not Mr. Modi, needs a reckoning on Sikhs. After Indira Gandhi’s assassination by Sikh bodyguards in 1984, 3,000 Sikhs were slaughtered in a pogrom often orchestrated by senior Congress leaders, including more than 2,000 killed in the nation’s capital. One of the extraordinary features of modern Indian history is how Mr. Modi was demonized internationally for his alleged role in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002 in Gujarat but the Congress Party escaped global odium for its role in the worse atrocities of 1984. It is hard to see how there can be closure for the victims’ families until such time as there is criminal accountability for those events.

Moreover, any mention of Sikhs in the context of Indo-Canadian relations inevitably rakes up ugly memories from three decades ago, when Canada seemed to be home to a large number of separatist Sikh extremists.

On June 23, 1985, Air India flight 182 was blown up over the Irish Sea en route from Montreal to Delhi via London, killing all 329 people on board. Most were Canadian citizens of Indian ancestry. This was the first bombing of a 747 jumbo jet, the deadliest plane bombing, the deadliest attack involving an aircraft until 9/11 in New York and remains the biggest mass murder in Canadian history. The perpetrators are believed to have been Sikh terrorists, although the subsequent trials were less than satisfactory.

All in all, what may have been a lighthearted quip by Mr. Trudeau is fraught with hidden dangers and best avoided in future.

Source: Mr. Trudeau: Don’t be so quick to brag about Sikhs in your cabinet – The Globe and Mail