Brampton Politicians Speak Up On Alleged Sikh Extremism in Canada
A number of Brampton’s elected officials are speaking out against a recent federal government report highlighting terrorism threats in Canada. Specifically over how extremist elements of Sikhism constitute a terrorist threat.
In the federal government’s 2018 Public Report on Terrorism Threats to Canada, it highlights specific terrorist threats such as Shia and Sunni Islamic Extremism, Right Wing Extremism…and Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism. As the report states:
The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement in India which seeks to create a separate country within Punjab for Sikhs called Khalistan, which has resulted in some very violent incidents in India’s history.
A number of politicians from various levels of government have spoken out against this designation, citing that there was no solid evidence that Sikh extremism is a problem in Canada.
Brampton city councillor Harkirat Singh sent this letter to federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. Singh found it puzzling that “Sikh Extremism was not mentioned in the previous 2017 and 2016 reports, but for some reason was added in this year’s report as a current issue without providing evidence to validate these claims.”
Brampton Regional Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon echoed similar sentiments in this tweet.
As did Brampton East MPP Gurratan Singh.Brampton South PC MPP Prabmeet Sakaria put the blame on the Liberal government for maligning his community.The criticism goes beyond just Canadian politicians of Sikh origin, as federal Conservative MP Garnett Genuis asked the same question.
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. #cdnpoli— Garnett Genuis (@GarnettGenuis) December 13, 2018
Even the government’s own MPs are speaking up, as Brampton Liberal MP Ruby Sahota sent out a letter asking the Minister for a meeting and that she had no prior knowledge of the report, while BC Liberal MP Randeep Sarai took the unusual step of asking his government to remove the reference to Sikh extremism entirely.
However, there is pushback from other quarters, such as former CBC correspondent Terry Milewski, who spent a good chunk of his career covering the Air India bombing. In a series of replies to Genuis’ tweets, Milewski mentions how some 30 years later the 1985 Air India bomber, Talwinder Parmar, is still hailed as a ‘martyr’ in certain segments of the Sikh community.
Milewski was heavily criticized for pressing Jagmeet Singh on this issue just after he became NDP leader, with some seeing the reporter’s move as a double standard that would have never been given to a white politician.
Goodale has issued a statement saying the government will conduct a review of appropriate changes to the language.
The World Sikh Organization issued this press release also condemning the report for maligning Sikh Canadians. Regarding the decision to add Sikh Extremism to this year’s report, the WSO says:
“The move appears correlated to repeated unsubstantiated Indian accusations of rising extremism in the Sikh community that reached a crescendo during the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India earlier this year,” a trip which was universally condemned in all quarters as a waste of government resources, culminating in a picture of Trudeau’s wife with Jaspal Atwal, a former Sikh separatist who was convicted of attempted murder by the Indian government.
“The report does not point to any current incident of violence or terrorism associated with the Sikh community in Canada and only references the 1985 Air India tragedy,” the WSO continued. Jaskaran Sandhu, the WSO’s Executive Director, tweeted out this along with the statement.
Thinking about this some more, and I continue to struggle with it:— Jaskaran Sandhu (@jaysingh_01) December 13, 2018
1) If Sikh MPs were consulted and weren't listened to, then why not?
2) If they were consulted and said the report is good, then why?
3) If they werent consulted, then why werent they?#AskCanadianSikhMPs https://t.co/QQ2RXrgy6Y
As Brampton has one of this country’s highest populations of Sikh Canadians, this is indeed one of the touchier subjects to hit the community.
What do you think of this report’s findings about terrorist threats in Canada?