Response of Some Politicians to Sikh Community’s Concerns Disappointing

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(March 23, 2010) - The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is deeply disappointed by the response of some federal and provincial politicians to the concerns of the Sikh community about the visit of Indian cabinet minister Kamal Nath to Canada. Mr. Nath has been implicated in leading a mob that attacked Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, a prominent Sikh shrine, and burnt several Sikhs alive. While the Sikh community welcomes the statement by NDP Leader Jack Layton acknowledging the Sikh community's concerns and urging his caucus to not attend events featuring Mr. Nath, other federal and provincial leaders have shown an unacceptable ignorance of the human rights concerns of the Sikh community.

Statements by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty that the 1984 massacre of Sikhs was "many years ago" and statements by federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff that Mr. Nath is a "duly elected parliamentarian who serves in a government that happens to be presided over by a person of Sikh faith and origins" have deeply disillusioned the Sikh community. WSO's Legal Counsel Balpreet Singh said, "whether the incidents happened 10, 26, or 60 years ago, does not diminish the injustice that was done, and the potential legal culpability of the alleged perpetrators. There is no statute of limitations on crimes against humanity such as which Mr. Nath is accused of."

The fact that Mr. Nath serves in a government presided over by a person of Sikh origins is also irrelevant. During the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence across India, the President of India was a Sikh but did not stop the brutal slaughter that took place. It is unacceptable that Mr. Ignatieff should hide behind such uninformed statements.

WSO's senior policy advisor Gian Singh Sandhu said, "In the past few days several federal and provincial politicians have shown a woeful ignorance of the human rights abuses that have directly affected their constituents. Family members of many Sikhs residing in Canada were killed in the brutal massacre that occurred during the anti-Sikh violence in 1984. As a country which has prided itself for supporting human rights, Canadian politicians should have the courage to stand up for their constituents rather than 'kowtowing' to India for economic reasons."

Contrasting the welcoming of Mr. Nath with the Federal Government's recent actions in delaying a visa to human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, "one must question the priorities of a government which allows a man who is accused of heinous crimes to travel freely, while a noted human rights activist's attempts to complete a speaking tour are thwarted by the late issuance of a visa…."

The World Sikh Organization (WSO) is a non-profit international organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, 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.

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