[Photo Source: Twitter/KathleenWynne]
By Ishani Nath
Canadian provincial politician Kathleen Wynne found herself in the middle of cultural controversy last week when she visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar during a 10-day tour of India.
Wynne was warmly welcomed and received a siropa despite a report from the Hindustan Times that this traditional robe of honor would not be bestowed upon the “pro-gay” Ontario premier.
According to the newspaper, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) was not planning on giving Wynne a siropa because she is, “a lesbian, [and] is a supporter of same-sex marriages, a practice opposed by the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs.”
In spite of the article, photos and multiple media reports confirm that Wynne did receive the ceremonial robe.
In a statement released on Sunday, Wynne, leader of Ontario’s Liberal party, said she was “honored to receive the siropa.” Following the ceremony, Wynne also helped cook lunch in the community kitchen, known as the langar, sitting on the ground with local women and rolling chapattis.
Wynne is openly lesbian and is traveling through India—along with other Canadian political leaders and her spouse, Jane Rounthwaite—as part of a tour to foster opportunities for trade and investment.
To the confusion of many readers and critics, the Hindustan Times maintains that Wynne did not receive the siropa and instead was only gifted a gold-plated photo of the Golden Temple and a set of Sikh religious books.
“To pay obeisance in the Golden Temple is everyone’s right, but to give siropa to dignitaries, Sikh tenets need to be followed carefully,” Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh told the Hindustan Times in an article published after Wynne’s visit. The article also highlighted that an edict opposing same-sex marriage was issued in 2005.
The cross-continental media controversy prompted others to speak out.
“One’s sexual orientation should have no bearing on politics, foreign affairs or public service,” Ontario’s Progressive Conservative leader, Patrick Brown—who recently returned from a similar business trip to India—said in a statement Monday. “I know the vast majority in Canada and India share my condemnation of homophobia.”
The media-fuelled drama surrounding her Golden Temple visit is now settling down, and the news didn’t seem to dampen Wynne’s spirits. She continued with the trip, this time making headlines for her brag-worthy jog with athletic legend Milkha Singh and a private sit-down with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.