Pressure from Sikh community forces Trudeau govt to take U-turn in poll year

Pressure from Sikh community forces Trudeau govt to take U-turn in poll year
  • 1
    Share

Toronto, Apr 17: The Justin Trudeau government apparently removed references to Khalistani extremism in a report on terror threats to Canada because of a warning that leaders of the ruling Liberal Party wouldn’t be allowed to speak at parades marking Vaisakhi.
Certain sections of the Sikh community had mounted pressure on the government over references to Khalistani extremism in Public Safety Canada’s report released last December. Last week, the government released an updated version of the report in which all mention of Sikh and Khalistani extremism had been removed, much to the chagrin of India.
With federal elections due in October, ‘nagar kirtans’ or parades are considered prime locations for politicians to reach out to thousands of voters. For instance, the Vaisakhi event at Surrey in British Columbia attracts almost 500,000 people. And its organisers decided that the Liberal Party leaders would be banned from speaking at the massive Khalsa Day observation.
“I definitely think the decision we made as a collective had an impact, otherwise we would not have seen such a quick response within 36 hours by the Liberal government,” said Moninder Singh, president of the Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar and one of the principal organisers of the event in Surrey.
April is the month for nagar kirtans across Canada, with some events stretching into the early weekends of May. There was concern within Liberal Party circles of a domino effect, across cities and provinces. Singh confirmed his group had “started discussions for other nagar kirtans in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal to follow suit as well”.
Prime Minister Trudeau attended a nagar kirtan in Vancouver less than 24 hours after the decision to remove all references to Khalistani extremism from the report that was made and the changes were in place.
The Liberals also received a scare recently when a slate (or candidate) backed by the fathers of two major figures of the Sikh community, cabinet minister Navdeep Bains and MP Ruby Sahota, was soundly defeated in the elections to the management of Ontario Khalsa Darbar in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
GTA and Metro Vancouver areas (where Surrey is located) account for a trove of seats in the House of Commons, and a majority of Liberal MPs elected in 2015, including Bains and defence minister Harjit Sajjan, are from these areas. There was also the unspoken threat that they could be ostracised by some hardline gurdwaras.
As Singh said, “There was consistent pressure from many different places that pushed this through and forced the Liberal government to take a strong look at the type of language they had used and agree that it was maligning and would not be used in future.”