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Nurse Shaves Sikh's Beard Without Permission
By VERONIQUE MANDAL
The Windsor Star, Windsor (Ontario, Canada), Jul. 11, 2003
"The family of a deeply religious Sikh is filing a Human Rights complaint after the man's beard was shaved by a Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital nurse without his permission. Angad Singh, 95, in strict adherence with his faith, has never allowed one hair to be removed from his face and head. The beard of a Sikh is one of the five sacred insignia of his religion, Singh was sent to hospital on Jun. 4 by a Community Care Access Centre nurse for blood work and a general check-up, said his son Maninder. The following day his beard was shaved and his eyebrows trimmed."
" 'There was absolutely no reason for the nurse to shave his beard and if I had not come into his room in time, she would have cut his hair,' said Maninder. 'It's just a terrible thing.' Singh sits in an armchair in his son's home, his smile of greeting belies the hurt and humiliation he feels knowing that his once elegantly tied beard is now reduced to a scraggly, month-old tuft of hair. A man of stature as an officer in the Indian government of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Singh is hard of hearing, but mentally sharp and says he has been totally disgraced by the shaving."
"From a man who regularly gave sermons, Singh now hides in the back of the temple, too ashamed to be seen by his fellow worshippers. 'This is very difficult to deal with. I feel very much ashamed and this is very bad for me,' said Singh. 'I many times tried to stop her, but she wouldn't stop. This has brought disgrace on the whole family.' Hotel-Dieu Grace spokeswoman Shannon Tompkins, said the nurse involved is devastated by what she's done. 'She is mortified now that she realizes the significance of it,' said Tompkins. 'She thought she was taking care of him and doing the right thing by making him look tidy. She didn't mean to do anything wrong.' "
"Dr. Sukhdev Kooner, leader of the Windsor Sikh community, said having the beard shaved was like cutting off a limb. 'It is equal to a death and, like any trauma to the mind, there will always be a scar no matter how hard you try to deal with it,' said Kooner. 'Surely they could reason that he had a full beard and long hair for a reason. If this was a younger man the stigma would destroy him.' At the time he was admitted to hospital, Singh's beard, which almost reached his chest, was loose and not held in place or 'tied' by the traditional piece of ribbon."
"Beards which are tied don't grow as fast as those left to hang loose, said family friend Sarjid Shah, a lawyer and prosecutor for the government of India. 'This man has not plucked a single hair from his body and this is a very bad thing to happen to him,' said Shah. 'No matter what, the nurse should have asked his permission to cut his hair and given respect to his religion. Canada is a great country and I'm surprised this would happen here.' "
"Singh's hair, which remains quite long, is covered by his traditional turban. Singh's son has met with officials from the C.C.A.C. and Hotel-Dieu Grace to discuss the unfortunate incident. 'The most important thing is that this does not happen to anyone else. I am so stressed about the whole thing and I feel so badly for my father,' said Maninder. 'This is like an assault on him and he is very badly hurt. We just want them to admit they've made a grave mistake and regret it.' Tompkins said the hospital will send an official letter of apology to the Singh family and are educating staff members. 'Our diversity officer Elise Harding-Davis has spoken to the nurse and all staff on the unit to educate them about the Sikh religion,' said Tompkins."