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Sikhs respond to unsubstantiated ‘Sikh extremism’ inclusion in Canadian terror threat report

Sikhs across the world have reacted with shock and criticism to the news of a Canadian government report alleging ‘Sikh extremism’ without evidence.Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 14.28.19

The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada was published yesterday by Public Safety Canada, a federal government department. The report included a small section on ‘Sikh extremism’ but failed to provide any evidence for this contributing to Canada’s terror threat.

The report says: ‘Some individuals in Canada continue to support Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements. This political movement aims to create an independent homeland for Sikhs called Khalistan, in India.’ It did not specify how support for self-determination, a principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, contributed to Canada’s terror threat.

President of the World Sikh Organisation Mukhbir Singh condemned the report, saying: ‘It is deeply disappointing to see the addition of imagined “Sikh extremism” to the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada.’

He added: ‘There is no explanation for this addition other than Public Safety Canada having tacitly accepted the false Indian rhetoric around rising extremism in the Sikh community.’

In a letter to Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, the WSO clearly indicated a link between the inclusion of Sikhs in the report and Canada’s diplomatic relations with India. It said: ‘Given the lack of any current incidents associated with extremism in the Sikh community, it appears that the addition of the section on ‘Sikh extremism’ is linked to the fact that, despite any evidence, India has repeatedly raised this issue with Canada at every bilateral meeting between the two countries.’

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 12.38.32Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party responded by tweeting: ‘We must call out terrorism wherever it occurs, including recent attacks from the far right targeting women in Toronto & Muslims in QC. The Liberal’s public safety report fails to do this – but does stoke fear w/o any evidence about the Sikh community, which is dangerous & wrong.’

A statement from the British Columbia Sikh Gurudwaras Council and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee – a coalition of around 30 gurdwaras across Canada – called the inclusion ‘not only surprising, but disturbing.’

They warned: ‘Maligning the entire Sikh community in this report in such a generalised statement is irresponsible and could have wide standing effects on Sikhs throughout Canada.  

‘What has happened since December 21 2017 (release of the 2017 version of this report) that would move the Liberal government in Canada to take such a step and include the Sikh community now?’

Echoing the concerns of the WSO, the statement said: ‘The direct link between the content of this report regarding the Sikh community and the ongoing interference of the Government of India in Sikh affairs within Canada is blatantly obvious.’

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 16.43.25Canadian Sikh educator Harman Singh of world-renowned educational outlet Basics of Sikhi said: ‘It is shocking that such damaging claims have been made on the basis of no evidence. Such unsubstantiated rhetoric from the government endangers the lives of Canadian Sikhs.’

Regarding support for Khalistan, he added: ‘How does the Canadian government not understand that many Sikhs fear for their security, and that of their people and heritage, in a country whose government has committed genocide against them? Across the world the principle of self-determination is seen as fundamental to democracy. Why is the Canadian government scaremongering by portraying Sikhs as a threat for voicing that fundamental right?’

The reaction from Sikhs was strong enough to prompt a response from Garnett Genius, the Deputy Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. He tweeted: ‘References to “Sikh extremism” or other “extremisms” without context or evidence is an irresponsible way for the government to communicate about a sensitive issue. We would like more information about what led to that reference.’

Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 16.44.02The report comes just days after a parliamentary report investigating Justin Trudeau’s trip to India in February said concern from the National Security and Intelligence Advisor that ‘foreign actors were undermining the reputation of “respected public institutions”’ in Canada was ‘understandable’.

The report is also at odds with findings from respected academic Dr Jasjit Singh, whose investigations of the British Sikh community – where there is significant Khalistan support – found no evidence to suggest a terror threat from Sikhs. He said his report ‘concludes that Sikhs in Britain do not pose a security threat as there is no conflict with “the West”’.  In June, British Sikhs marched in front of Buckingham Palace and down the Mall in London behind a ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ banner without any expression of concern from the British authorities.

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