'Why now?' Anger grows over mention of Sikh extremism in federal terror threat report

Sikh groups accused Ottawa of capitulating to the Indian government, which has repeatedly pushed a narrative that Canada...



Several groups within Canada’s Sikh community demanded Wednesday that the federal government provide evidence to support a claim made in a recent terror assessment report that “Sikh extremism” was a current threat to the country.

The groups accused Ottawa of capitulating to the Indian government, which has repeatedly pushed a narrative that Canada is harbouring Sikh extremists, and suggested the report seemed more driven by politics than intelligence.

“Rather than defending the reputation of Canadian Sikhs and denying these baseless allegations, it appears that the Canadian government is content to capitulate to Indian demands to crack down on the Sikh activists,” said a statement from the Ontario Khalsa Darbar, one of Canada’s largest gurdwaras based in Mississauga.

The document drawing scrutiny is Public Safety Canada’s annual report on the terrorism threat to the country. A section on current threats lists “Sunni Islamist extremism” and “right-wing extremism” followed by “Sikh (Khalistani) extremism.” There had been no mention of Sikh extremism in previous years.

The 2018 report notes that while violent activities in support of an independent Sikh homeland (Khalistan) in India have fallen since the 1980s when terrorists carried out the bombing of an Air India flight, killing 331 people, “support for the extreme ideologies of such groups remains. For example, in Canada, 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.”

But several Sikh organizations, representing some of the half-million Sikhs living in Canada, said Wednesday that pro-Khalistan activism is being falsely equated with extremism and wondered why Public Safety Canada was publicizing the threat now when the report makes reference to only historical acts of violence.

“We see activism on the ground here in Canada with respect to different issues, but there’s nothing to suggest violence of any sort,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada. “It damages our reputation.”

In a joint statement, the B.C. Sikh Gurdwaras Council and the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee, a coalition representing 30 places of worship, said the Sikh community had been maligned by the government’s “generalized” accusations, which were “irresponsible and could have wide standing effects on Sikhs throughout Canada.”

We’re lumped up with a lot of Islamophobia

“We have to go back at least three decades to find anything. … What’s happened in the last year for the Sikh community to be included? What context can they give us? Why now?” Moninder Singh, the B.C. council’s spokesman, said in an interview.

“We’re a highly visible minority in this country, but we’re still subject to hate crimes. We’re lumped up with a lot of Islamophobia.”


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