A Message of Condolence and a Promise of Solidarity – UFCW Canada National President to the Sikh Community

We were all shaken by the horrendous news of a gunman with white supremacist ties ripping apart the Sikh community with the senseless murder of six innocent lives on August 5, 2012 in Milwaukee. Three others were critically injured.  To make matters worse, the brutal attack took place in a most sacred place: a Gurdwara – a Sikh temple, a place where all are welcome to eat and pray regardless of gender, race, religion or creed. 

Unfortunately, these attacks were not the first on the Sikh community and these murders have, over a decade of similar events, been occurring in North America. The assaults on racialized minorities in Canada and the United States, and in particular on Sikhs, have skyrocketed since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Adding an additional layer of madness to these murders are reports that the gunman may have understood these Sikh sisters and brothers as being Muslims, as that has been the basis for many of the attacks on Sikhs since September 11, 2001.

To the families of the victims and the Sikh community in both Canada and the US, on behalf of the 250,000 members of UFCW Canada, our thoughts and prayers go out to you.  It is difficult in a time like this to fully understand the pain the families are experiencing and a religion that may be seen as being front and centre in these brutalities. 

At UFCW Canada, our members from the Sikh community have been, and continue to be, the backbone of many of our struggles in the labour movement. Whether they are berry pickers in British Columbia, meatpackers in Alberta, or labourers in Ontario, our members from the Sikh community, and the Sikh community itself, through its collective strength, generosity, and genuine solidarity with those who are in distress, have taught us that love does overcome hate, that working together does overcome isolation, and that working in solidarity does overcome selfishness. 

It is now our turn to support our sisters and brothers in the Sikh community.  In light of this tragedy UFCW Canada will continue to ensure that we work towards workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination. Through the work of our National Human Rights, Equity and Diversity Department, we are committed to the ideal of "Never Again" and we will continue to take progressive steps to ensure that we do our part to educate our membership in eradicating xenophobia, racism and hatred. 

It is only when we work together in genuine solidarity in our unions and in our communities that we may begin to eradicate the notions that lead to such atrocities. UFCW Canada remains devoted to the struggle for equality, and stands together, shoulder to shoulder, with Sikh communities across Canada and the U.S. and our thousands of Sikh members, in mourning this deeply saddening tragedy and working towards a brighter future. Collective strength in the face of adversity is vital to overcoming the hate that seems to underlie the murders in Milwaukee. Respecting the principles of diversity means uniting with our sisters and brothers to not only accept our differences but to celebrate them.


In solidarity,

Wayne Hanley