- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Jan 1912, p. 112-116
- Singh, Dr. Sundar, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The importance of the subject of the Sikhs in Canada to the British Empire. The customs and religion of the Sikhs, who are a part of the Empire. History and origins of this religion, founded by a great teacher called Nana, born in the Punjaub in the northwest provinces of India about the same time as martin Luther. The teachings of Nana. Nine teachers who followed Nana. How the story of British rule in India would have been different had it not been for the Sikhs. Loyalty of the Sikhs to the British. Local problems as they affect Canada. The Sikhs who came out to Canada in 1905 and after. The restrictions on the Sikhs bringing their families to Canada, despite the fact that they are British subjects who have fought for the Empire. Inaccurate statements about the Sikhs which appear in the press. The legality of the position of the Sikhs in Canada; their behaviour and work record. An appeal to the members of the audience to stand up for these people and their rights. The speaker's conviction that if he brings his argument before right-minded Canadians, that they will say that the same rights should be given to the Sikhs as are given to any other British subjects. False statements being spread about the Sikhs. This issue as a matter of justice. Some individual cases. Promises of Queen Victoria that all British subjects, no matter what race or creed they belong to, shall be treated alike.
- Date of Original
- 25 Jan 1912
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
THE SIKHS IN CANADA.
An Address delivered by DR. SUNDAR SINGH, before the Empire Club of Canada, on January 25, 1912.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,-
I understand that your Club is called the Empire. Club, and that it is interested in the discussion of Imperial affairs. The, subject which I am to discuss today is of great importance to the Empire.
I am to speak to you about the Sikhs, who are a part of this Empire, and I would like to speak of their customs and religion. The religion of the Sikhs was founded by a great teacher called Nana who was born in the Punjaub in the northwest provinces of India about the same time as Martin Luther. He taught the people that the highest ideal of worship that could be attained was the service of their fellow-beings. He travelled north, south, east, and west; he went to Europe, and to Persia, and taught the people the same doctrines as the prophets who were born in the fifteenth century-Knox in Scotland, Luther in eastern Europe. 'In-the same way, in India, these doctrines were being taught to the Hindoo people. Its believers were persecuted and their children were burnt alive, but in spite of this persecution it grew and became a strong power, and after Nana, there followed nine teachers. In his own religion it was the same as, in other religions; like those who went preaching that Mahomet was the only way to God, so did he, and after his death his son united his followers into a strong body, and the religion they preached and practised reached over the Punjaub.
There is a name well known to you, the Rajah Ranjit Singh; after his death the religion of his people became a mere matter of form. They fought with the British and lost their cause; but thanks to the Christian life and influence of men like Lord Lawrence, it was not long till the Sikhs were fighting on behalf of British rule in India, and the story of British rule in India would have been different had it not been for the Sikhs; regiment after regiment was drawn to Delhi and the Sikhs were the first to scale the walls of Delhi. (Applause.)
Since then they have stuck to the British through thick and thin; not only in India but outside India, in China and Japan and Persia, and all along the northern frontier of India.
But it is not about their religion that I wish to speak now, but about the local problems as they affect Canada. Some few years ago a few troops of the Sikhs passed through Canada on their way to the jubilee of the late Queen Victoria, and the gentlemen who were in charge of them spoke very highly of them. These Sikhs went back home and they spoke of the vast prairies where they saw wheat growing the same as we grow wheat. The consequence was that a score of them came out in 1905-about forty of them came in that year and the next, and this went on till in agog there was quite a strong body of them, about 4,000 in all, engaged in agriculture; they were farmers in India, and of course they naturally took to farming when they came to this country.
They are British subjects; they have fought for the Empire; many of these men have war medals; but, in spite of this fact, they are not allowed to have their families with them when they come to this country; in spate of their being British subjects, they are not allowed to have their wives here. People talk about these Oriental races, and the phrase is understood to include not only the Chinese and the Japanese, but the Sikhs as well which is absurd. Letters giving inaccurate statements are appearing in the press all the time. I do not know why all this objection should be directed against the Sikhs-against that people, more than against any other Oriental people.
These people are here legally; they have satisfied every process of law; they have been, here over five years; they have been good to their employers-Colonel Davidson employs 350 of them in his mills in New Westminster-their work is equal to that of other labourers; their quarters are better, and they are making more wages now; they have fitted into the situation here; they have made good. (Applause.)
In spite of this, there are these letters going through the papers, and there are attacks upon these men; yet, although they are British subjects, nobody stands up for them. We appeal to you of the Empire Club, for we are only 4,000 in number, to help us in this matter, and to see that justice is done to these subjects of our King.
We are subjects of the same Empire; we have fought, we have sacrificed. We have fought for the Empire, and we bear her medals; we have an interest in this country; we have bought about $2,006,000 of property in British Columbia; we have our church and pay our pastor, and we mean to stay in -this country. I understand that there is a society called the Home Reformation Society and that it says that it is better for a man to have a wife and family. To others you advance money to come here, and yet to us, British subjects, you refuse to let down the bars. All we are asking of you is justice and fair play, because the Sikhs have believed in fair play, and have believed all the time that they will get justice; that ultimately they will get justice front the British people: (Applause.)
Many people have been telling me that it is useless my trying to bring this question before the Canadian people, but I am firmly persuaded that, if the question, is properly brought before right-minded Canadians, that they will say that the same rights should be given to the Sikh people as are given to any other British subjects.
Some people have spread the false statement that the Sikhs are polygamous; they are monogamous in India,, and are not more polygamous than you are. They are strictly monogamous by their religion, and it is useless to spread these false stories. There are officers in India--perhaps some have come from Canada-and they can take their families to India to our people; are the laws' made so invidious that it cannot work both ways! That law was meant to shut out the Japanese, yet, in the year 1908, 5,000 came from Honolulu, and they let them. in. We do know that we are British subjects and we ask for our rights; if you can allow the alien to come over here, surely a British subject ought to have the same rights as an alien.
The position cannot hold good; it, is inevitable that' it cannot hold good. These Sikhs are the pick of their villages, they are not out here like the Japanese and Chinese. The Japanese has to show only 50 cents when he arrives, but the Sikh has to show $200, and, if he cannot, he is sent away. Of course you can understand what the reflex action of this treatment might be in the present state of India. These people who are here, are here legally; if they were new people coming in, it would be a different matter; but as such they have rights, and I think those rights ought to be respected. (Applause.)
It is only a matter of justice. If this Empire is to be and continue to be a great Empire, as it is sure to be, then it must be founded on righteousness and justice; your laws cannot be one thing for one set and a different thing for the rest of us.
These Sikhs are quite alone; they do the roughest labour; they do not come into competition with other labour, and yet this is the treatment they receive. They are plainly told: "We do not want you to bring your wives in." You cannot expect people to, be moral, if you debar them from bringing in their wives and children. They can travel in Japan, they can travel in Europe; they can travel anywhere under the British flag, except here.
Just at present there are two Sikh women confined on board a boat at Vancouver; they came on the 22nd. One is the wife of a merchant, the other is the wife of a missionary. These men have been settled in this country for five years, and are well spoken of. They went back some time ago to bring out their wives and children. They asked the steamship company to sell them tickets, and the company told them that they would be refused admission. They came to Hong Kong, and the steamship company refused to sell them tickets; they waited ever since last March and last month the C. P. R. sold them tickets. On the 22nd, they arrived here, and the men were allowed to land, but the ladies are still confined as if they were' criminals.
Now, if these men were allowed to land, why not their wives; why should they not be allowed to land, too? That is what they do not understand, and, although they are well versed in the occult sciences and mystical philosophy, why this should be so, they cannot see. (Applause.)
We have the promise of Queen Victoria that all British subjects, no matter what race or creed they belong to, shall be treated alike. These promises have been confirmed by King Edward, and by His Majesty King George the Fifth. When he was in India, he granted their full rights to the Hindoo people. The Indian people are loyal British subjects. They are as loyal as anybody else. Why should there be such a difference in the treatment of these loyal people?
We appeal to you, gentlemen, to say that in any country, under any conditions, the treatment that the Sikhs are receiving is not fair. We appeal to your good sense and to your humanity to see that justice is done, that this thing is not continued, for it has been going on for quite a long time. You may well imagine the feeling of these two men, who are suffering as I have described, for no fault at all, except that they are Sikhs. (Applause.)
In answer to a question from the audience, Dr. Singh continued
The Sikhs are a strictly monogamous people. There are polygamous people in India, but the Sikhs have nothing to do with polygamy; they are strictly monogamous; if any young man marries otherwise he is no longer a Sikh.