This is an open letter to the Sikh community of the Okanagan region, and of the entire nation of Canada.
For those of you who do not know, the Quebec Soccer Federation recently banned turbans from soccer players. They deemed turbans to be unsafe (to date they have yet to articulate how turbans are unsafe). On Monday, June 10, 2013, the Canada Soccer Association announced it had suspended the Federation for their decision regarding the wearing of turbans. I posted a blog post about this yesterday (you can read it by clicking here). On Friday, June 15, 2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation reversed its ban (CBC article available here or another of my blog posts is available here).
Dear members of the Sikh community, friends of members of the Sikh community, and fellow Canadians,
The world is inhabited by individuals. About 35 million individuals in Canada.
Soccer is one of the most globalized sports. It is played by children on lush green soccer fields in Canada (until water restrictions are enacted by local governments to prevent water shortages so that citizens can continue to satisfy the human body’s need for hydration), and on dirt covered pebbles in many countries around the world. Billions of individuals watch TV screens and listen to radios for hours in homes and shops around the world. It has been perfected in developing countries for generations and has only recently moved to the major sport level in countries such as Canada and the United States of America.
Recently, the Quebec Soccer Federation decided to ban soccer players wearing turbans from playing soccer. The main argument was for the safety of all players (yet, to date, the Federation has yet to clearly articulate or outline the specific safety hazards turbans pose). The Canada Soccer Association, the governing body of soccer in this great, multicultural country, did not agree with the Federation. On Monday, June 10, 2013, it suspended the Quebec Soccer Federation.
The extent has yet to be determined, the ban of the Federation will likely impact all soccer players in Quebec. I hope parents and coaches understand the transformative learning opportunity in their laps. A pro soccer player will play into their early- to mid-30s. Learning about diversity and different cultures and beliefs will impact a young soccer player stuck on the sidelines during the, what will likely be, legal battle for a lifetime. A much more significant and impactful consequence than not playing for a few weeks.
As much as the Quebec Soccer Federation’s decision goes against many of the values of Canada’s multicultural population, and the beliefs and philosophies of most Canadians and Canadian organizations, I hope that such a dark event can somehow have a positive impact on the world. Remind people to celebrate differences of culture and beliefs that exist in one of the most diverse countries in the world, Canada. We have witnessed the transformative power of sport in the past, and hope this is another example of where good can come out of a not-so-good moment.
The Quebec Soccer Federation claims the decision was made for the safety of all players. Under Canadian law, ignorance is not a defence against illegal activity. I could perhaps make the same claim for French-speaking, Quebec-born soccer players playing in an Ontario soccer tournament. I bet most of the refs would only be English-speaking. So what happens if a situation arises during a game and the ref is unable to communicate with the French-speaking players? The situation could be a safety issue. Should the Ontario soccer association ban French-speaking soccer players from playing in Ontario tournaments? I would hope not.
This is part of the excitement of life. If you have traveled you know how fun it can be to try to communicate with someone who does not speak your words. It may be a challenge, but 99% of the time, communication, of some kind, is possible. If everyone was green, had purple eyes, blue hair, was exactly 6 feet tall and weighed exactly 200 pounds, how fun would life be? What would we talk about at the dinner table? This is the beauty of Canada. The multiculturalism. The diversity.
I hope that every Canadian – athlete and non-athlete, Catholic and non-Catholic, Sikh and non-Sikh – be allowed to openly and proudly express his/her/themselves, and their families and communities. Just as we allow a soccer athlete to select their position on the field, I strongly believe all individuals should be allowed to select their religion, and sport. This is why we continue to fight many wars – to protect all Canadians – residents, permanent residents, visitors – freedom and right to choose.
I would like to thank those fighting this, and very similar battles, each and every day. If there is anything I, or Okanagan Elite Athlete, can do to support the Okanagan and Canadian Sikh community, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With a warm heart,
A F***ing Proud Canadian
Some mainstream media articles on the matter are available:
I welcome and strive to get your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with me via social media.
Through this blog (Adam Goodwin’s Blog 13), I am trying to help connect individuals and organizations with content, ideas, and services that can enable themselves to change the world. Join me today to continue to better the world and this generation.