Minister Ralph Goodale speaks to media at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre during the Liberal cabinet retreat in Nanaimo, B.C., on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

World Sikh Organization demands Canada prove Sikh extremism is a threat

Sikh community says this is first time such extremism has been mentioned in federal terror-threat assessment

Canada’s public-safety ministry will reconsider the way Sikh organizations are described in a recent report outlining terror threats in Canada, the department’s minister Ralph Goodale said Friday.

The Canadian Sikh community, including one of Goodale’s fellow Liberal MPs, wants him to do far more than fix a few words.

Goodale said he is confident the security officials who wrote the 2018 report on terrorism threats facing Canada did not mean to malign entire religions when describing Sikh, Shia and Sunni extremism but he is still asking them to make changes to be more precise.

“Words matter,” Goodale said. “We must never equate any one community or entire religions with extremism.”

Balpreet Singh, a lawyer representing the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said Goodale has missed the point. Singh said this is the first time Sikh extremism has been mentioned in the annual terror-threat assessment but provides no evidence for doing so. He said the only incident the report mentions is the bombing of an Air India flight leaving Canada for New Delhi and Mumbai. That attack killed 329 people but it was in 1985.

“Reevaluating the language is fine but just the fact that this section was there is very troubling given that there is absolutely no context beyond something that happened three decades ago,” said Singh.

The report says “some individuals in Canada continue to support Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements.”

Khalistan is the name for an independent Indian state proposed by some Sikhs. Extremists demanding Sikh independence were behind the Air India bombing, but Singh said there is simply no evidence Sikh extremism exists in Canada today. He said just advocating for an independent Sikh state is no different from wanting Quebec to separate from Canada.

However several Indian government leaders have pushed Canada to suppress calls here for Sikh independence, and the issue was a major rain cloud over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India last February. That trip was one of the low points of Trudeau’s time in office so far, dogged not just by the prime minister’s decision to wear high-end Indian wedding attire at many public events but also by invitations to two receptions given to a man convicted in 1986 of attempting to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister who had been visiting Canada.

Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, who apologized during the trip for being the one who invited attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal to the receptions, was among those demanding the federal government explain why Sikh extremism was named in the report. In a social-media post Sarai said the report looks at 12 years of terrorist plots or attacks in Canada and not a single one of them involved Sikhs. Neither was Sikh extremism mentioned in incidents affecting Canadians abroad.

READ MORE: Jaspal Atwal to be tried in June 2019 on charge of uttering threat

Trudeau spent much of the India trip working to dispel accusations that Canada was a hotbed of Khalistani extremism. At the end of it he agreed to a security framework with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is Hindu, that committed to combating terrorism, including several Sikh extremist organizations.

The organizations named in that framework, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation, were also named in this week’s terror-threat assessment.

A lot of the concern raised with Trudeau in India was about Canadians financing Sikh extremist activities in India. Financing was mentioned in this year’s report.

“Furthermore, Shia and Sikh (Khalistani) extremism also remain of concern because while their attacks in Canada have been extremely limited, some Canadians continue to support these extremist groups, including through financing,” the report said.

Singh said he thinks the Canadian government is falling prey to foreign interference on the matter and he said unless the government can provide new evidence that Sikh extremism exists and is a problem in Canada, the government needs to remove that entire section from the report.

“Give us some sort of proof,” he said.

NDP MP Matthew Dube, who sites on the Commons committee on public safety and national security, said Friday the government needs to do more than scrub certain words from the report.

“The Liberals have offered no clear explanation and provided no evidence for this addition in the first place which targeted a specific community,” he said.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Smoke-free summer a boon for West Kootenay tourism

Tourism centres seeing numbers up

Black Press Kootenay Career Fair underway in Cranbrook

Today, Thursday, August 22, around 40 employers will be waiting to meet potential new employees

National trail group decries province’s plans for West Kootenay trail

Converting trail back to motorized use will harm its international reputation, says official

Cannings to pedal through South Okanagan — West Kootenay riding

MP leaves from Nakusp on Aug. 23 and ends in Kaleden on Aug. 29.

UPDATED: MV Balfour ferry returns to service

The 65-year-old ferry had been out of action for a month

Black Press Career Fair underway in Cranbrook at Days Inn

Opportunities abound for employers and job seekers

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man tells judge he attempted suicide a month before daughters’ murders

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Province funds new shuttle buses for 13 B.C. senior centres

Activity, socializing helps maintain health, Adrian Dix says

Thermal imaging cameras eye Salish Sea in hopes of better detecting whales

Cameras installed at BC Ferries’ terminal on Galiano Island, and off southern Gulf Islands

BREAKING: Province approves Surrey police force

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth green-lights city’s municipal police force

Most Read