WSO has today sent the below letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on the maligning of the Sikh community in the recently released 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada.
Hon. Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
House of Commons
Dear Minister Goodale,
Re. “Sikh Extremism”
We are writing to express our concern with respect to the addition of “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” to the Public Safety Canada’s 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada. We note that the 2018 report on Canada’s terrorist threat environment included the “Sikh extremism” component for the first time this year. We, and many in the Sikh community, are disappointed and confused as to what would prompt this addition.
While the 2018 Public Safety report does not make any reference to current extremist activities in the Sikh community, it goes on to state, “some individuals in Canada continue to support Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements.”
The report does not point to any current incident of violence or terrorism associated with the Sikh community in Canada and only references the 1985 Air India tragedy.
Given the lack of any current incidents associated with extremism in the Sikh community, it appears that the addition of the section on ‘Sikh extremism’ is linked to the fact that, despite any evidence, India has repeatedly raised this issue with Canada at every bilateral meeting between the two countries. Canadian Sikhs have repeatedly insisted that India smears any political speech and activism it finds offensive, such as exposure of India’s appalling human rights record or attempts at recognizing the 1984 Sikh Genocide as “extremism”.
We also note that during Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to India earlier the year, the Government of Canada signed onto the Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism between Canada and India. The Framework, formalizes “increased collaboration between the law enforcement and security agencies of both countries” and will “develop exchanges and facilitate effective cooperation in the fields of security, finance, justice, and law enforcement, including, where appropriate, at the operational level.”
In September 2017, you released the Ministerial Direction to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service: Avoiding Complicity in Mistreatment by Foreign Entities. The Direction prohibits:
- the disclosure of information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity;
- the making of requests for information that would result in a substantial risk of mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity; and
- certain uses of information that was likely obtained through the mistreatment of an individual by a foreign entity.
Given India’s appalling human rights record, we expressed our doubts as to how the Framework would be in compliance with this Ministerial Direction. Many in the Sikh community have expressed concerns that increased collaboration between Canadian and Indian counterparts may jeopardize the lives of Canadian Sikhs or their family and friends in India.
It appears to many in the Sikh community that these steps have been taken by the Government of Canada to appease Indian concerns around imaginary ‘Sikh extremism’ in Canada. We wish to be very clear- advocacy for Sikh human rights or Khalistan is not extremism and to suggest that it poses a danger to Canada is absolutely ludicrous. There is nothing to suggest there is anything happening in Canada’s Sikh community except peaceful activism. Accepting Indian allegations of ‘Sikh extremism’ deeply maligns the reputation of the community and has a real impact on the everyday lives of Canadian Sikhs. We are deeply disappointed that our community has been stigmatized due what to appears to be foreign interference and pressure.
We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss this matter and to understand what would have motivated the inclusion of “Sikh extremism” in the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada.
World Sikh Organization of Canada
c.c. Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau