Today a Globe and Mail reporter called to investigate rumours she’d heard about a supposed rise in “Sikh extremism.” At first we were confused and then we remembered theCanadian trade mission to India. As is often the case, someone in India was probably whispering in her colleague’s ear.
Wendy Stueck, of the Globe’s B.C. bureau, had no real evidence for this imaginary Sikh extremism in Canada, just hearsay from another reporter travelling with the trade mission. So she called us to see if there was something we might know.
As we’ve said several times in the past, there is nothing to suggest a rise in extremism or radicalism. If there is, we’d be the most surprised to hear about it.
Wendy had questions about the recent “Save Rajoana” movement and whether any fundraising was going on for terrorism. We were happy to explain the significance of the Rajoana Movement and how it was in fact a rejection of violence, whether by individuals or by the state. But we certainly hadn’t heard of or seen any terrorist fundraising. Or any terrorists for that matter in the Canadian Sikh community.
The claim of ‘rising Sikh extremism’ is getting old, but we understand that it’s part of a reporter’s job to check out the rumours she hears – and we appreciate her coming to us. Since 2007, every bilateral meeting between Canada and India has seen the issue raised by the Indian side. Most recently, Minister John Baird found himself in hot water with Canadian Sikhs after a meeting with the Indian External Affairs Minister. He seemed to tacitly agree that steps needed to be taken to control a “spike” in Sikh extremist activity. Later, the Minister clarified that he did at “no point…make generalized assertions about any community in Canada, including but not limited to Canadian Sikhs.”
Although the Sikh community hasn’t seen any evidence of rising extremism, we explained to Wendy that what we have seen is an increased awareness about the legacy of human rights violations in India. The WSO has regularly called upon the Canadian government to raise the issue of justice for the victims of November 1984 and we have called on India to end the cycle of torture and impunity in its security forces.
This may seem radical or extremist to some in India, but for Canadians it’s what good governance is all about.