UPDATE (September 19,2012): MInister Baird responds to concerns of the Sikh community in an open letter. Click HERE to read.
Ottawa (September 12, 2012): The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird following reports that during his recent visit to India, Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna made allegations of a “spike” in Sikh extremism in Canada. It has also been reported that Minister Baird committed to take all possible steps “within the limits of the constitution to curb activities of such extremist groups in Canada.”
These recent allegations of “rising Sikh extremism” in Canada are only the latest in a series of similar allegationsthat have been made by Indian government officials since 2007.
In his letter to Minister Baird, WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “as a national human rights organization that has been deeply engaged with the Canadian Sikh community for nearly three decades, we have yet to see any signs or evidence of this alleged rise in extremism. The World Sikh Organization of Canada has repeatedly called for proof of such claims but none has been forthcoming…There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there is any threat of violence or radical extremism in the Sikh community today.”
Despite the Canadian Sikh community being more tightly woven into the Canadian fabric than ever, the continued baseless allegations of “rising Sikh extremism” have proven extremely damaging. The WSO has earlier linkedallegations of extremism in the Sikh community with a rise in racism and discrimination against Canadian Sikhs, including hate speech and racist graffiti equating Sikhs with terrorists. Mr. Vinning said, “we fear that this hostility could escalate, particularly if it appears that the rhetoric about Sikh extremism is endorsed by our own government.”
What appears to be the motivation behind these allegations of “rising Sikh extremism” is a desire to quash legitimate discussion in the Sikh community of ongoing human rights abuses in India. As Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly reported, impunity for abusive policing remains a pressing concern in India, with chronic allegations of police brutality, extrajudicial killings, and torture. Those speaking out against human rights violations in India are not extremists or radicals; they are part of a long, proud tradition in Canada of encouraging foreign states to improve their human rights practices.
The WSO, on behalf of the Canadian Sikh community calls upon Minister Baird and the Canadian Government to defend the rights and reputation of Canadian Sikhs and ask that India provide evidence of the alleged “rise in Sikh extremism”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status