Haroon terms his coming to Canada as ‘accidental’. At the age of
25, he was looking at a chance to see the world and get better
economic opportunities than those available in Hyderabad, India,
at that time. “I could have gone anywhere: Australia, US, UK”,
says Haroon. May be it was Canada’s High Commissioner to India,
Roland Michener’s exhortation to him, “Go to Canada” that brought
him here in time for Expo 67 in Montreal.
Haroon did not
find it easy to get a job as a journalist. He arrived in Toronto
on a Saturday and Monday he was interviewed for a job at the Globe
and Mail. He heard what he would hear many times over: he had no
Canadian experience. Isn’t it strange that new immigrants, after
34 years, still hear the same?
turned down at the Globe, The Toronto Star and every newspaper he
could apply to. He still has the “rejection letter from The Perth
Courier”. He ended up doing what new immigrants have always done-
found another job to make both ends meet. He went to work selling
suits in the basement of Simpson’s department store.
easy, but it eventually comes, if you work hard,” he said. In 1968
he was hired by the Brandon Sun and within two years was city
editor, by 1974 managing editor.
In 1978, Haroon
got his break at the Toronto Star, when on publisher (the late)
Martin Goodman’s recommendation; he was hired as a copy editor. He
was often sent to report from the Middle East. He wrote
supportively of the revolution in Iran as opposed to the western
reporters who judged it harshly. “I thought it was a genuine
people’s revolution which brought down the most powerful ruler in
the region. That changed, as often happens in counter-revolutions,
however,” he said.
1990, he was the Star’s national editor. Then as editorial page
editor, from 1990 to 1998, Haroon expanded the letters to the
editor section to its current full-page size, the first large
circulation daily in the country to do so.
point was the 1991 Gulf War, in which letters received jumped from
an average of 125 to 350 daily. “Those letters showed that Canada
is microcosm of the world, and we were blessed with all the
viewpoints in the world right in this city,” he said.
humbled and honoured by the Order of Canada award. He recalls that
his “mother often told me that I should not let success or
achievement go to my head at any stage in my life”. He is proud of
the fact that he has not betrayed her trust and confidence in him.
He credits the
honour as ”recognition of ideas that I have developed and worked
to propagate through many writings in The Star.” The credit he
says goes to The Star “which has a long tradition of standing up
for minorities and the under classes”, and which provided him a
vehicle to verbalise the concerns of South Asian readers who have
found in him an outlet to express their feelings, fears and
The Star was the
first newspaper in the western world to carry a regular column by
a turbaned Sikh. “It normalized the idea of a turbaned Sikh as a
Canadian,” he said.
given a different voice, not only to the paper but to the
community, that hasn’t been heard as clearly before,” said John
Honderich, The Star’s publisher. “He tilts at windmills, he
attacks sacred cows and he’s not afraid to be unpopular. He’s made
a difference and that’s a real tribute to a journalist.”
While the world
condemned the Taliban for dynamiting treasured Buddhist statues,
Siddiqui urged his readers to remember the critical issue in
Afghanistan was the famine, Honderich said.
his readers for his success in journalism. “It is they who contact
me and tell me their problems”, he says. He investigates, follows
up and brings out the facts in his articles. His is one of the
rare voices that gets heard and published in the mainstream media.
“He has taught
all of us that minority views are to be respected and listened
to,” said Carol Goar, The Star’s editorial page editor.
premier Bill Davis called Siddiqui’s honour “well deserved,”
adding, “Mr. Siddiqui has demonstrated a sensitivity to changing
demographics in Ontario and Canada and developed a rapport with
new Canadians. He understands their participation and contribution
“What I’m trying
to do is make Canada an even better place. That means sometimes
criticizing, analysing or prodding. I also try to bring an
international perspective to Canadian affairs and a Canadian
perspective to international affairs,” Haroon said.
Haroon is that even after the South Asians have moved to different
parts of the world and settled in their adopted country, they
continue to be involved in the problems and differences back home,
and that is at the expense of their involvement in their adopted
Having made a
decision to leave home for better opportunities abroad, it is
imperative, Haroon feels that people for the sake of their
children at least, get involved politically and socially. “There
is a need to fight for equality, against discrimination and
barriers that are an obstacle to equal citizenship”, he says. They
should constantly endeavour to get equal opportunities and full
“I want to
infuse people with my enthusiasm about Canada. The battle for
equality never ends and yet, at the end of the day, we have to
celebrate Canada. And if we are critical, it is because of the
high standards we have set,” he said.
involvement is a must for South Asians to change the direction of
democracy in Canada. Haroon is glad that in the last few years,
people of South Asian-origin have got involved not only in civil
service but also politically in municipal, provincial and federal
As for himself,
Haroon rules out any political ambitions. He says that he has been
asked to run by political parties, but he prefers to remain a
“free bird” and do what he can by sticking to journalism where he
is not bound by any party directive and can freely express his
views that can bring people closer and become more involved in the
affairs of the country regardless of any party affiliations.
We wish him well
in his continuing crusade to make the common man heard!
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