P.E.I legion apologizes after asking Sikh man remove his turban

A Sikh man, Jaswinder Singh says he was asked to remove his turban by staff at the Royal Canadian Legion in Tignish, P.E.I., on Wednesday night and, along with his friend, Sunny Pannu, he was subject to racist remarks from patrons.

The Legion apologized for the incident on Friday, saying it stemmed from a misunderstanding of what the man was wearing and that staff will be receiving training to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

Jaswinder Singh and Sunny Pannu, who moved to western P.E.I. last February, went to the Legion with their call centre co-worker, Annemarie Blanchard, to play pool.

Pannu said, “They told us you have to remove your turban, because this is our rules. We said, OK we remove our winter hats because we respect your rules, but you should understand our thing also. They said no, it’s not about your religion, you have to follow our rules.”

Blanchard said she tried standing up for the men but staff refused to listen.

Singh turned the camera on after he refused to take off his turban. At that point things got heated. A woman who has been identified as the manager, said to Singh, “If you don’t stop taping me … cause you know what, I’ll rip your headpiece off.”

The video then shows one man at the Legion bar yelling, apparently threatening to fight the two, swearing at them and giving them middle fingers. He yelled, “Take your f–king hat off in the Legion. It’s the f–king law here. It’s the law.”

Pannu said, “They don’t even know about their own Canadian history — there are a lot of Sikh people in the army, they wear the turbans. The defence minister is also Sikh.”

Stephen Gallant, the president of Tignish Branch No. 6, said the branch’s policy is to remove all headwear in the building and patrons at the bar questioned why one of the men was wearing something on his head. He said at the time, the staff did not know it was religious headwear.

Gallant said, “That was the first time ever in the history of this legion that anyone’s come in with a religious headdress, and we were caught off guard.”

He added Singh was wearing something that didn’t appear to be a turban. Singh described the patka he was wearing as a “small turban.”

Gallant added, “I do fully apologize and I will apologize with these individuals one-on-one and I want to apologize for my members and my staff and the whole Legion at large.”