Ontario, Canada, February 25, 2021 (Yes Punjab News)
On Sunday, October 4, 2020, the Assumption College School in Brantford, Ontario, Canada wrongly identified a seventeen year old Sikh student as the child whose image appeared in an anonymous post on Instagram and on the School’s Twitter page.
The image, shown above, depicts a boy wearing a head covering. He appeared to be ten years of age and is pointing a gun at himself in a mirror. What followed was a miscarriage of justice for Arshdeep and his family. The family immediately sought the help of United Sikhs, ICHRA, in Canada.
On the day in question, Assumption School staff inexplicably informed the police that Arshdeep was the child in the Instagram post. Arshdeep did not resemble the boy in the photo and the school staff, who had known Arshdeep for years, should have known it was not Arshdeep. The School did not ask Arshdeep or his parents about the image before calling the police. The School also suspended Arshdeep.
On that day, in response to the School staff’s complaint, several police cars arrived at Arshdeep’s parents’ home to question Arshdeep and his family. The family was frightened by the sudden appearance of the police but, fortunately, the officers were readily able to ascertain that Arshdeep was not the child in the image in stark contrast to the School staff, who knew Arshdeep personally, but still misidentified him. The police informed the school that Arshdeep was not the child in the Instagram post. The School then informed Arshdeep that he could return to school.
Arshdeep returned to school the next day to find that everyone was aware that he had been singled out as the child in the Instagram and School Twitter image. He wrote to the school Assistant Principal and despite the clear error and the emotional harm done to Arshdeep and his reputation, the School’s staff initially refused to apologize.
This situation took a toll on Arshdeep’s emotional health and academic record and, as a high school senior, threatened his future educational prospects. When Arshdeep and his family did not receive a satisfactory response from the School, they reached out to United Sikhs.
United Sikhs is a civil and human rights, international organization that advocates on behalf of children and families, regardless of race, creed, gender or nationality. United Sikhs’s legal team issued a series of letters to the School. They also met virtually with the School Board and the family. Arshdeep was not seeking empathy, but rather raised concerns about racial, religious and ethnic injustice in the Brantford Community.
United Sikhs has done an excellent job to ensure that this case was resolved thanks to the help of Prabhsimran Singh, a Sikh law enforcement officer who mentors children like Arshdeep. The entire United Sikhs team has done an amazing job to ensure that Arshdeep and his family received justice in this matter. On or about February 2021, the School issued a delayed but deserved apology.
According to Sukhwinder Singh, the United Sikhs, Canada Executive Director, “having bravely confronted the terrible circumstances they were placed in, with the help of United Sikhs, the student and family can now begin to heal and move on from this terrible ordeal. They are an example to members of the community. Everyone should know that they are not alone when confronting bias and to reach out to United Sikhs when their rights have been infringed.”
“There is leadership in Assumption, who moved quickly to address the concerns of the parents and the student once the family partnered with UNITED SIKHS,” stated Prabsimran. “Those School leaders, like Ms. Temple, demonstrate true commitment to students and the communities they serve. This will hopefully have the effect of creating a learning environment where students of all backgrounds are treated with respect and dignity. UNITED SIKHS will continue to advocate and strive for change to ensure that all students reach their full academic potential, he said.
“We look forward to partnering with the School to provide community input into developing and reforming school policies and procedures as necessary and to educating the school community about Sikh culture, religion, dedication to community service and about Sikh heroes,” stated Sukhwinder Singh.