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February 29, 2000
Racism not a game, Toronto Sikhs say
J M Shenoy
It might have started as a snowball-throwing incident, but to the extent it became a racial issue, and the victims were called racist names, it should be taken seriously, Sikhs in a small community near Toronto say. They add that similar incidents have targeted Sikh students in many places. One of the four Sikh students hurt in the incident, one suffered a skull fracture.
Because of their persistence in calling for action against the students, at least six students face assault charges.
The names of the students -- both victims and perpetrators -- cannot be given as per Canadian law. The incident began outside Oakville-Trafalgar Secondary School on February 15, when a group of six students throwing snowballs at Sikh students.
Soon, according to a complaint lodged by the Sikh students, the perpetrators began calling them names and slapping them with racist insults. When a male and a female student -- who were not Sikhs -- tried to stop the attack, they too were attacked, the police say.
The school authorities initially thought suspending the two students involved in the attack was enough but the community kept demanding tougher action.
The school has a total of five Sikh students. They will transfer to another school if the alleged perpetrators are not expelled from the school, their parents say.
Amrit Rai does not even think the act started innocently. Rai, a leader of Oakville Sikh Cultural Society says the school thinks it was just a snowball-throwing incident and subsequently became a racial attack.
"But there is no doubt in our minds that this attack was racially motivated right from the beginning,'' Rai told the media. The attackers even laughed when a turban was ripped off and thrown into the garbage bin, Rai said.
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