THE World Sikh Organization of Canada on Friday strongly rejected allegations of “rising Sikh radicalism in Canada.” These allegations have been reported in the Indian media prior to Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to India, scheduled to begin on Saturday. It has also been reported that the allegation of rising Sikh radicalism in Canada will be raised with Trudeau during the visit.
The WSO said: “Since 2007, every bilateral meeting between Canada and India has seen the issue of “rising Sikh radicalism” raised by the Indian side. Most recently, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh accused Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and numerous other Sikh members of the Liberal caucus of being “Khalistani” separatists.
“Allegations of “Sikh radicalism” are not supported by actual facts and are used as a euphemism for speech that India finds disagreeable. Indian officials have repeatedly categorized legitimate activities of Sikh political activists in Canada in support of human rights or a separate Sikh state, as radicalism, and have resorted to labeling speech they find offensive as ‘extremism’.
“In response to similar allegations in November 2012 during his visit to India, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, radicalism and violence shouldn’t be “confused with people’s right in Canada to advocate a political position. It may be a political position that both the Government of Canada and the Government of India disagree with. We can’t interfere with the right of political freedom of expression,”
“Many members of the Canadian Sikh community, including current and former elected officials, have been denied visas to visit India due to their having spoken out about human rights abuses in India. These Canadian Sikhs have been added to a “black list” of Canadian Sikhs who are not permitted to visit family and friends in India due to having exercised their Canadian right of freedom of expression.”
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said, “We are confident that Prime Minster Trudeau will defend the reputation of Canada’s Sikhs and in the absence of any actual evidence, will reject allegations of rising radicalism. The Sikh community in Canada is incredibly engaged in every facet of Canadian life and there is nothing to indicate any rise in radicalism. It must be understood in no uncertain terms that speaking out against human rights abuses and peacefully advocating for political causes cannot be confused with or tarnished as radicalism. These bizarre allegations made against Canadian Sikhs are incredibly damaging and result in actual harm against the community.”
WSO Senior Vice President Bhavjinder Kaur said, “India undoubtedly has serious issues with its human rights record. Individuals who call India to account are in no way radicals. We hope that the Canadian delegation will raise the issue of human rights with India including persecution of religious minorities and lack of justice for the victims of the 1984 Sikh Genocide. While increased Canadian trade with India will be beneficial for both countries, Canada has a responsibility to encourage India to meet its international human rights obligations.”