This year marks the 25th anniversary since a sickening hate crime in Metro Vancouver. On January 4, 1998, five neo-Nazi skinheads attacked and killed the caretaker of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Nirmal Singh Gill.
His death prompted more than 5,000 people to gather several months later at a march against racism.
Meanwhile, the five accused men pleaded guilty to manslaughter. On November 16, 1999, Provincial Court Judge William Stewart sentenced all five to serve between 15 and 18 years in prison. Stewart set a precedent because it was the first time that a judge had cited subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code of Canada. This permitted Stewart to consider aggravating factors, such as racial hatred.
The Crown, on the other hand, had sought life sentences, according to a summary of the case.
Later, longtime antiracist activist Imtiaz Popat made a short film about the community’s reaction to the crime.
Since then, Popat has created a new version of his film, “Hate Can Kill”, which will be screened at the InterUrban Gallery. It will be followed by a panel discussion with Popat, co-producer Michael Rubin, broadcaster and writer Gurpreet Singh, and educator Annie Ohana.
The Sunday (October 29) afternoon event is part of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival.
According to Popat, this new edition of the film is more comprehensive and brings forth more analysis than the original. Moreover, he included information about other hate-driven murders since Gill was savagely beaten to death 25 years ago.
Popat received B.C. award for his advocacy
At one point in the new version of “Hate Can Kill”, video shows the former president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Harjit Singh Nijjar. He unveils a plaque commemorating Gill.
On June 18, a gunman shot Nijjar dead in the gurdwara parking lot. This set off an international incident between the Canadian and Indian governments.
Popat is a therapeutic counsellor in Vancouver and co-founder of the Coalition Against Bigotry – Pacific. In 2022, he received a B.C. Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award.
At that time, the provincial government applauded him for “outstanding work in building intercultural trust and understanding and/or reducing racism and hate between communities”.
In the video below, people who’ve seen “Hate Can Kill” offer their reactions to the film.
The Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival presents Imtiaz Popat’s short film, “Hate Can Kill”, at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday (October 29) at the InterUrban Gallery (1 East Hastings Street). For a full festival schedule, visit the website. Follow Imtiaz Popat on Twitter @PopatImtiaz.