'No Vandalism, All Peaceful': Locals Debunk 'Hate Crime' at Canada Park Claim
We spoke to Brampton residents to establish a timeline of events over 'vandalism' of Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign.
The Quint DAILY
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On Sunday, 2 October, the Indian High Commission in Canada tweeted about a "hate crime" at the Shri Bhagavad Gita Park in Brampton, urging the Canadian authorities and the local Peel Police to "investigate and take prompt action."
The "hate crime" referred to here was the alleged vandalism of a park sign, in which the Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign was allegedly removed and replaced by a blank sign.
However, the tweet, also containing a picture of the named park sign juxtaposed with a blank sign, prompted a response from the Regional Peel Police, which said there was no evidence of vandalism to the permanent sign or any park structure, and that the permanent sign was still waiting for the lettering to be applied.
The mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, also issued a statement, clarifying that the blank sign was installed as a placeholder, as the permanent sign with the park's name was yet to be installed.
Where Did the Claim of Vandalism Come From?
While the Indian High Commission in Canada may have been responsible for turning it into an international incident, the allegation of vandalism did not originate there. It was, in fact, first tweeted by Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown.
"We are aware that the recently unveiled Shri Bhagavad Gita Park sign has been vandalised. We have zero tolerance for this. We have flagged to Peel Regional Police for further investigation. Our Parks department is working to resolve and correct the sign as soon as possible."Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, in a now-deleted tweet
This was picked up by Kamal Khera, the Member of Parliament for Brampton West, Sonia Sidhu, the Member of Parliament for Brampton South, Maninder Sidhu, the Member of Parliament for Brampton East, and Chandra Arya, who is an MP from Nepean.
Timeline of Events
"The park was recently renamed, and as part of the process, they first put a blank sign as a placeholder. There was no name on it. The claim of vandalism came from the mayor himself and then a string of statements followed, including from the high commission. It is election season and local politicians sometimes jump the gun. It was a misunderstanding and drew hyper reaction because of the election time."Indian-origin Brampton resident Manan Gupta told The Quint over the phone
Narrating the timeline of the incident, Don Patel, who said he was present at the inaugural ceremony of the sign, told The Quint, "The park was renamed from Trevor Park to Shri Bhagavad Gita Park on 27 September. There was a temporary movable sign put up at that time so the inauguration event could take place."
Patel said the maintenance staff was installing the name sign on Friday, but it got damaged during installation. "So, they took it away for repair and put up the blank sign. Someone saw that and reported it to city officials as vandalism. Since they were not informed by the maintenance staff, they also thought it was vandalism and reported it to the police," Patel added. "It was all a miscommunication and misunderstanding."
Patel, a community leader who also runs an organisation called Humans for Harmony, also attributed the reaction to the upcoming municipal election. "The issue is not political, but sometimes during election season, people react quickly on community issues," he told The Quint over the phone.
Brown confirmed the timeline. Calling the issue a "confusion," the mayor tweeted a statement from the city's Community Services and Communications Department.
"We learned that the sign was damaged during the original install and a city staff member brought it back for unplanned maintenance and to reprint. The blank sign was left up during repairs. This is not usual process as we never remove a sign unless damaged or its name changes."
The Peel Police also clarified that there was no vandalism.
The high commission was called out for its unsubstantiated claim of vandalism. Arya, a Liberal Party MP, was also criticised for issuing a statement condemning the alleged vandalism without verification. The statement was later deleted from his Twitter handle while social media users shared screenshots, taking aim at him for "spreading fake news."
Jaskaran Sandhu, a Brampton resident and a local politician, condemned the high commission and Arya for spreading the claim, calling it a "foreign interference."
"We should be incredibly concerned by the foreign interference from @HCI_Ottawa in spreading fake news about the Shri Bhagavad Gita Park. Ugly disinformation that was also used by @AryaCanada to divide communities in Brampton. As a councillor, I'll always fight this nonsense here," Sandhu, a councillor candidate in Brampton, said.
"Who runs this handle? An intern or a bhateeja (nephew) of an Indian baabu (bureaucrat)? Can you please verify things before creating hysteria?" asked Jas Oberoi, who tweets regularly on India-related issues in Canada.
All the local politicians who tweeted with the 'vandalism' claim have now deleted their tweets, even though their screenshots are being circulated on social media. The Quint could not find their tweets on the incident on their Twitter accounts, but all of them have retweeted clarifications either from the mayor or the Peel Police.
The tweet by the high commission, on the other hand, has not been deleted and there has been no clarification at the time of publication of this story.
A detailed list of questions has been sent to the Ministry of External Affairs, and the story will be updated with its response.
'Hate Crime': How Indian High Commission Was Quick to Tweet
Although a local issue, the tweet by the Indian High Commission in Canada turned it into an international incident, with Indian media reporting it as a "hate crime against Indians."
Patel, who said he keeps in touch with the local consulate for Indo-Canadian community issues, claimed it was a miscommunication from city officials informing the high commission of the alleged vandalism that prompted the tweet.
"A little miscommunication from a maintenance person made it an international news," Patel said. 'There was no hate crime, there was no vandalism."
Commenting on the tweet from the high commission, Gupta said, "They should have been more responsible, and should have waited for an inquiry," adding, "It fits into the narrative of increasing cases of hate crimes against Hindus and recent anti-India incidents. They have to justify the advisory."
The advisory that Gupta referred to came from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs on 23 September, asking its citizens to exercise caution in the light of "a sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-India activities in Canada."
While the MEA advisory did not mention any specific incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence, and anti-India activities, there have been a few incidents targeting people of Indian origin.
While one incident dates back to April, when an Indian student, Kartik Vasudev, was gunned down in front of a subway station in Toronto.
On 12 September, another Indian student, Satwinder Singh, was killed in a shooting rampage that resulted in two more deaths in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
But none of these incidents have been termed as hate crime. In fact, according to an Indian Express report, Toronto Police says they haven’t seen a notable increase in hate crimes targeting people of Indian or South Asian descent.
"There have been few incidents related to hate crime and violence against people of Indian origin. The government of India tries to combine all these into a narrative because the relationship between India and Canada are not that rosy, especially since the farmers protests. The recent Khalistan referendum has not made things better."Manan Gupta
The "Khalistan Referendum" that Gupta mentioned was conducted in Brampton on 18 September by pro-Khalistan organisation Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). Many feel that despite the mentions of hate crimes, sectarian violence, and anti-India activities in the advisory, the MEA was reacting to the controversial referendum held on 18 September when it issued the advisory on 23 September.
Soon after the MEA advisory, Canada came out an advisory of its own, warning its citizens on 27 September against travelling to areas bordering Pakistan in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Punjab, and the entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Although the High Commission of Canada clarified that the advisory existed for a long time, the timing of the update was seen as a tit for tat for the MEA advisory.
While there is no pattern of large-scale targeting of the Indian Canadian community, two Hindu temples in the GTA have reported acts of vandalism in the last few months, according to the IE report. Additionally, a Khalsa religious school was also vandalised in Brampton last year.
Despite the mentions of hate crimes, sectarian violence, and anti-India activities in the advisory, locals say that all is peaceful in Canada, especially in Brampton.
Patel said, "It’s all good here. Peaceful as it should be."
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Topics: Hate Crimes Canada Canada-India
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