In response to Terry Milewski's commentary "Sikhs rally for suicide bomber on Parliament HIll", the World Sikh Organization of Canada has sent a letter of concern to CBC's ombudsman Kirk LaPointe
WSO has been very clear that there is no evidence of extremism in the Canadian Sikh community. Those who claim otherwise have yet to offer any proof.
Some of the more troubling features of the commentary are:
- Mr. Milewski cannot prove there are Sikhs advocating for violence in Canada, because there are none. So instead, he writes rhetoric: “And if there were any doubt that Canada remains a stronghold of Sikh separatism, Wednesday’s demonstration should settle it.” Claiming a rally against capital punishment is a marshalling of terrorist forces is akin to arguing that every gathering of Irish Catholics is just a front for terrorists and gun runners because the IRA was active in Ireland 30 years ago. Or that the Quebecois in a crowd may be plotting to kidnap and murder politicians because the FLQ was active there 40 years ago.
- Sikhs were not “rallying for a suicide bomber” as Mr Milewski writes. They were rallying to oppose Balwant Singh Rajoana’s death sentence – a far different activity. The Sikh faith specifically opposes capital punishment and Sikhs have been protesting around the world. There is a feeling that the cycle of violence which has already claimed too many lives in India must end and that includes state-sanctioned killings.
- His contempt for the idea that Sikhs would defend human rights – to his way of thinking the only possible reason for such an outpouring of support is for terrorism. He ignores the fact that both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also spoken against Rajoana’s execution. Even the daughters and grandchildren of the man he conspired to assassinate have asked for his execution to be halted.
Mr. Milewski's fixation on trying to find non-existant extremism in the Sikh community might be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. Since the commentary has been published on CBC's website, a steady stream of comments expressing fear and hatred towards Canadian Sikhs have been appearing and reflect the level of hysteria that is being created by such irresponsible reporting. Some examples (that have now been removed) are below:
The media and CBC specifically play an important role in shaping how we see ourselves and others. Canadians expect CBC to make a good faith attempt to tell the truth. So when Mr. Milewski presents a jaded view of the Sikh community instead of the facts, he has an impact on how Canadians view the Sikh community.
We are hopeful the CBC and Mr. LaPointe will take the concerns of the Sikh community very seriously.