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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paper Excellence, owner of Crofton mill, hit by malware

Paper production in Crofton, and other mills, impacted by incident

B.C. NDP’s throne speech speaks of benefits to B.C., says MLA Scott Fraser

Fraser agrees to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs over pipeline

Port Alberni’s Old Puckers playing for BC Children’s Hospital

CFOX’s hockey team will make the long trek to central Vancouver Island for the game

BIZ BEAT: Get a head start on spring cleaning in Port Alberni

Chris Fenton walks across a desert to raise funds for ACAWS

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, calls for end to blockades

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Petition seeks to remove local police department from Lindsay Buziak murder case

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

Resident discovers five discarded hog heads in Vancouver Island ditch

WARNING: Graphic image may be upsetting to some readers

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

COLUMN: Not an expert on First Nations government structures? Then maybe you should calm down

Consider your knowledge about First Nations governance structures before getting really, really mad

Meet the Wet’suwet’en who want the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Supporters of the pipeline are upset only one side is being heard nationwide

Most Read