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)

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

The rebranding project under which the new logo and website have been launched, began in 2019. (Lakes District News photo)
Village of Burns Lake gets a new digital look

Launches its new logo and website

A room at the BC ALS Clinic in the dreary basement of GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. (Greg Gowe photo/Lakes District News)
Hope through ALS clinincal trials needed in the province, says B.C. man

Greg Gowe, diagnosed with ALS calls on the government for better treatment options

The Chamber currently has a total of 136 members of which 16 joined in 2020 alone. (Laura Blackwell photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake & District Chamber of Commerce to host an open house in February

Has started making plans for events to host in 2021

Antoine Tom with the bake sale items that helped him raise $1,000. (Sabrina Tom photo/Lakes District News)
12-year-old local boy dubbed ‘kindness hero’

Raises money for classmate who lost his home

Village council meets in person, shares the meeting with the community via zoom. (Lakes District News photo)
Village council meets with newly installed plexiglass dividers

General public to continue attending meetings virtually

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read