Editor’s Note: This article contains a video and a description of racist comments directed at a South Asian man.
KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) — The Kelowna security guard who was the target of a racist tirade while working at COVID-19 vaccine clinic Tuesday says when he sees the video of the incident he feels sad all over again, but that he is heartened by the support he’s been shown.
Anmol Singh has been living in Kelowna for four years, and working security for the last couple of months. It isn’t the first time he’s been told to “go back to India,” but it is the worst experience of racism he has had since moving to Canada.
“It’s something that I never experienced this bad in the past. This is tragic. It just makes me feel sad over and over when I see that video again and again. At that point in time, I didn’t feel that bad,” he explains.
“It’s just sad because that happened to me, but most people are supporting me — which is good. I never thought this was gonna happen to me. Mostly people are nice. It doesn’t happen on a day-to-day basis. It’s just sometimes. This is not right, it’s just not right.”
FULL INTERVIEW: #KelownaBC Security Guard Anmol Singh speaks with CityNews and @OMNIpunjabi after experiencing a racist tirade that is now under investigation by the RCMP. https://t.co/TWXf8s9Nm8 pic.twitter.com/yTOR11YtAL
— CityNews Vancouver (@CityNewsVAN) July 15, 2021
Video of the interaction, first posted by InfoTel, shows a man holding a sign reading: “You are about to take part in a medical experiment with uninformed consequences, do you have informed consent on injury and death numbers?”
It begins with Singh calmly explaining he is protecting the property and the people who are attending their appointments. When Singh tells the man to leave someone alone, the protester responds by shouting at him to “Shut up.”
Singh is Sikh and wears a turban, and the rest of the video shows him explaining his job as insults are hurled at him.
“You are not a Canadian. You are disgusting. Go back to your country. Beat it. You don’t know Canadian laws. Get out of my face, you don’t know anything. We don’t want you here,” the man is heard shouting several times.
Related article: Kelowna councillor ‘disgusted’ by racist tirade against COVID-19 vaccine site security guard
Singh takes exception to the racist notion that people like him are not “Canadian.”
“This is a multicultural country. This is not a country only for that one person. Everyone here came from somewhere,” he says.
“It’s a country of different religions, races, colours. We can not say one person should go back to their country because eventually everyone is from a different country, right. Nobody needs to feel bad about it,” he says.
Singh says his only advice to anyone similarly targeted is to try to ignore the hateful comments, to document exactly what happened, and to report it to police. As a security guard, he says it’s his job to stay calm.
“We are always there to deescalate things. We cannot escalate any situation right because that’s going to lead to a bad or a physical thing. I never want to be in that situation.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan both took to social media to condemn the attack on Singh.
“I’m disheartened and disgusted by the rising number of violent attacks and hateful incidents in Toronto, Cambridge, Kelowna, and other cities. This behaviour is completely unacceptable, and we must always stand united against it – because every Canadian deserves to feel safe,” Trudeau wrote.
I’m disheartened and disgusted by the rising number of violent attacks and hateful incidents in Toronto, Cambridge, Kelowna, and other cities. This behaviour is completely unacceptable, and we must always stand united against it – because every Canadian deserves to feel safe.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 16, 2021
“This is vile, racist behaviour. If this is how you treat people, you are the problem. Racism is a scourge and we must stand together against it to build a better province,” Horgan wrote.
Police investigating potential hate crime
Singh says he’s given a statement to the RCMP, and is relieved they are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.
Mounties say investigators have identified the man shouting at Singh the video, and that the original complaint was only about protesters blocking access to the clinic.
“Officers attended, spoke with staff, and dealt with the protesters. No arrests were made at that time,” said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy, who says now that the video has been widely shared, a full investigation is being launched.
“We are now investigating this incident through the lens of the willful promotion of hatred under Section 319 of the Criminal Code,” Noseworthy said. “Racism has no place in our community.”
She says the Provincial Hate Crimes Unit has been called in.
Video credit: InfoTel
A Kelowna city councillor, who initially shared the video but has since taken it down, has condemned the comments.
“My first response was absolute disgust,” Coun. Mohini Singh said.
“I was horrified that this individual would attack a guy who’s just trying to do his job. He’s telling him to go back to India. He’s telling him he is not a Canadian. I think he’s more Canadian than the fellow doing the attacking because there he is working to make sure those who are going in to get a vaccine, are able to get in properly. It was absolutely a disgusting show of anger against the vaccination program.”
Singh says she was impressed with the guard’s professionalism and plans to tell him so in person.
“I have to commend him. He had a job to do, he kept his cool and was respectful right throughout this ordeal,” she told NEWS 1130 Wednesday.
Singh says stopping this behaviour is not only up to the police.
“It’s incumbent on each one of us stand up and say, ‘This is wrong.’ Because if we are quiet, then we allow this to persist. We need to all take a stand, big, small, whatever it is, in your community and say, this is, this is unacceptable, un-Canadian and should not be allowed to proceed. It is absolutely so wrong,” she said.
“If we are quiet about this then we have been we’re allowing this to continue. We have to take a stand.”
With files from Prabhjot Kahlon