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SPECIAL: 18 MPs and Sikh Separatism in Canada

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Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (File Photo: IANS) by .
Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (File Photo: IANS)

Is Canada’s Justin Trudeau govt pandering to Sikh separatism? Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had said the Trudeau government’s move to remove reference to “Sikh extremism” was politically motivated …. A special report by Asian Lite News

New Democratic Party (NPD) leader Jagmeet Singh, a contender in Monday's Canadian general elections and also the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator in Ontario, has reached out to young voters in the country via TikTok, the video sharing app. Singh has made it a priority to try to connect with young voters through his campaign, using tools and strategies other political leaders either cannot or have chosen not to try, CBC News reported on Sunday. by .
New Democratic Party (NPD) leader Jagmeet Singh

The election of 18 members from the Sikh community grabs headlines across the world. It is more than the elected MPs from the Sikh community in India. But is it going to improve Indo-Canada ties?

Leader of Canada’s second largest party, Jagmeet Singh, may be a kingmaker in Ottawa, but for New Delhi he remains a ‘pro-Khalistani and a pro-Pakistani’ ringleader despite his deep Punjabi roots In India.

As many as 14 of the 18 Punjabi candidates fielded by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party registered wins, mostly in the suburbs around Toronto and Vancouver. This time, a record half-a-dozen turbaned Sikhs will sit in the House.

Those who won from the Liberal party are Hoshiarpur’s Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South), Ludhiana’s Bardish Chagger (Waterloo) and Navdeep Bains (Mississauga Malton) — all three are ministers.

The others from the party who won are Sukh Dhaliwal (Surrey Newton), Gagan Sikand (Mississauga Streetsville), Rameshwar Sangha (Brampton Centre), Randeep Sarai (Surrey Centre), Maninder Sidhu (Brampton East), Kamal Khera (Brampton East), Ruby Sahota (Brampton North), Sonia Sidhu (Brampton South), Anju Dhillon (Lachine Lassalle) and Raj Saini (Kitchener Centre) and Anita Anand (Oakville).

Of the 19 Punjabi candidates fielded by the Conservatives, only four won. They are former MP Tim Uppal (Edmonton Mill Woods), third-timer Bob Saroya (Markham Unionville), first-timer Jasraj Hallan (Calgary Forest Lawn) and Jagdeep Sahota (Calgary Skyview).

Uppal is the brother-in-law of Congress MLA from Jalandhar Cantt, Pargat Singh. Liberal Anita Anand is a first time MP.

In the 2015 elections, the 1.25 million-strong Indo-Canadian community doubled its representation in the Parliament with the election of 19 MPs.

Indo-Canadians comprise 3 per cent of the population of Canada.

In 2011, almost all the Indo-Canadian MPs were Conservatives, but the trend changed in 2015. The victory of Justin Trudeau in 2015 catapulted 15 Indo-Canadian Liberals to the Parliament in Ottawa.

Among Canada’s half-million strong Sikh community quite a number are reported to be supporters of Sikh extremism.  In April, the Justin Trudeau government removed a reference to Sikh extremism from a report that had earlier termed Sikh terrorism as one of the five threats facing Canada.

Pro-Khailistani groups had criticised the “Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada” released last December by the Canadian Department of Public Safety.

The removal of reference to Sikh terrorism was seen as an attempt to woo Canadian Sikhs, and came just ahead of Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to a Vancouver gurdwara for Baisakhi festivities. According to the now-deleted portions of the report, Sikh radicalism remains one of Canada’s top five flavors of homegrown terrorism, alongside Islamic radicalism and far-right fanaticism.

Under the heading “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism,” the report noted that “some individuals in Canada continue to support Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements”. It said that “two key Sikh organizations, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation, have been identified as being associated with terrorism and remain listed terrorist entities under the Criminal Code.”

Infographics: Indo-Canadian Winners In The Elections. (IANS Infographics) by .
Infographics: Indo-Canadian Winners In The Elections. (IANS Infographics)

The report cited the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 by British Columbia-based Sikh extremists. It noted that there were “extremely limited” instances of Khalistani violence on Canadian soil, and added that both Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation continue to be blamed by Indian authorities for ongoing violence. The report explicitly referred to Canadian-based “financing” for the Khalistani organisations.

Sikh community leaders and Sikh members of the ruling Liberal Party protested against the report which they termed as an attack on Sikhism. Pro-Khalistan group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) demanded Prime Minister Trudeau’s resignation over the report.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, SFJ legal adviser, in a statement said: “For close to a year you and your government stood behind a completely unsubstantiated terror report that labelled our community as Sikh extremists or terrorists. It’s despicable that you drop the offensive language from your report the day before you come calling for money and votes in Vancouver.”

Latest reports suggest that Jagmeet Singh is also trying to bring Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists under one umbrella in Canada. Recently he held a meeting in this connection at his residence in Ontario.

The report was then officially softened in April — to coincide with Trudeau’s attendance at a Baisakhi parade in British Columbia.
Mention of “Sikh extremism” and their motive of a “Sikh homeland” were expunged. Instead, there was a vague sentence on “Extremists who Support Violent Means to Establish an Independent State Within India.”

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had said the Trudeau government’s move to remove reference to “Sikh extremism” was politically motivated.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi. (Photo: IANS/PIB)

“The Trudeau government has taken this decision under political pressure and is targeted to woo Sikhs in the election year. Trudeau is playing with fire as the decision will hit Indo-Canadian ties. Removal of reference to Sikh extremism will also pose a threat to India’s national security” Amarinder Singh said.

Canadian politician Ujjal Dosanjh e a former federal Liberal cabinet minister and NDP Premier of British Columbia e in an interview to the Sun said that with the move Trudeau’s government “has bowed to hard-right Khalistanis”.

“If he had bowed in the same way to hard-right fundamentalist Christians on any issue, there would be devastating criticisms of him by the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP. Except in this particular case the identity politics has won the day. This is an extreme case of political pandering by Mr. Trudeau. He capitulated to the hard-right Khalistanis and undermined the Canadian intelligence agencies or at least their independence in the way they want to identify their threats.”

Jagmeet Singh the King Maker

New Democratic Party (NPD) leader Jagmeet Singh, a contender in Monday's Canadian general elections and also the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator in Ontario, has reached out to young voters in the country via TikTok, the video sharing app. Singh has made it a priority to try to connect with young voters through his campaign, using tools and strategies other political leaders either cannot or have chosen not to try, CBC News reported on Sunday. by .
New Democratic Party (NPD) leader Jagmeet Singh

A dossier prepared by Indian Intelligence agencies says that Jagmeet, leader of the New Democratic Party(NDP), not only shelters activists of Khalistan in Canada, he leads the anti-Indian movement in the Americas, more vociferously, after India revoked special status to Jammu and Kashmir, early August 2019.

To the surprise of many diplomats in South Block — the seat of India’s foreign office in New Delhi — Singh, born to immigrant Indian parents, organised a conference of pro-Khalistan activists in Ontario in 2013, aimed at maligning the image of India abroad.

Two years later in 2015, as legislature member of NDP, Singh appeared at a pro-Khalistan rally in San-Francisco. He blatantly showered praises for dreaded terror leader Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, killed in a gunfight in Operation Blue Star.

In 2016, Singh went a step further when he endorsed the use of violence as a legitimate form of resistance to achieve an independent Sikh homeland out of India.

Since 2012, Jagmeet Singh now 40, has been on the radar of Indian Intelligence agencies.

On a specific report of Research and Analysis Wing (RA&W), India’s external Intelligence agency, Singh was denied a visa in 2013 for his anti-Indian stance.

The RA&W revealed in one its report that Singh had been funding Khalistani outfits, operating from Pakistan. He is also connected with prominent Khalistani and Kashmiri separatist groups based in different countries of Europe.

Latest reports suggest that Jagmeet Singh is also trying to bring Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists under one umbrella in Canada. Recently he held a meeting in this connection at his residence in Ontario.

After the abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government, Singh had expressed his support to pro-Pakistan propaganda on Kashmir. In various local media platforms Singh issued statements against India and accused the country of human rights violations in the region.

“I want the people of Kashmir to know that I stand with you, I stand against the injustices happening, and I denounce what India is doing to the people of Kashmir,” he told the media.

Though Singh’s meteoric rise in Canadian politics is seen as triumph of multiculturalism but there are many Canadians of Indian origin who are now questioning NDP leader on his proximity to sympathisers of slain terror kingpin Talwinder Singh Parmar, prime suspect in Kanishka (Air India) bombing.

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SFJ leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannu during a protest in London (File)

Parmat, the militant who lead the Babbar Khalsa outfit still has many followers in Canada, allegedly having close ties with Singh.

Sources in the Ministry Of External Affairs said that India is watching the developments in Ottawa closely. As far the political rise of Jagmeet Singh is concerned, New Delhi’s stand is quite clear. Those found harbouring terror outfits or their supporters would not be entertained in India. A point also endorsed and acknowledged by foreign policy makers in Canada.

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