THE World Sikh Organization of Canada on Monday expressed its disappointment in reaction to the “Statement from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on the Public Report on the Terrorist Threat in Canada.”
In his statement issued on Sunday (see below), Goodale acknowledged that “the language used to describe some threats unintentionally maligned certain communities…and is not in line with the values of the Government of Canada”.
Sikhs across Canada expressed their shock and disappointment at the inclusion of “Sikh (Khalistani) Terrorism” to the 2018 Public Safety Canada Report on Terrorism Threats to Canada. The report does not make any reference to current extremist activities in the Sikh community and simply states, “some individuals in Canada continue to support Sikh (Khalistani) extremist ideologies and movements.”
Many in the Sikh community feared that the section was added due to Indian interference and pressure following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India in February 2018.
While the 2018 report has not been altered and still contains the section on “Sikh (Khalistani) Terrorism”, Goodale in his statement said that an addendum to the report now suggests that in the future the term “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India” will be used as necessary and appropriate.
Goodale’s statement came on the same day as a community meeting organized by the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwaras Council and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee in partnership with the WSO on the issue of the 2018 Public Safety Report. The meeting held on Sunday at Brampton City Hall drew over 400 community members. Many in attendance expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the matter has been handled by the Government of Canada and expressed fears that the report would have long term negative repercussions for the community
WSO President Mukhbir Singh said: “It is unfortunate that while Minister Goodale recognizes that the 2018 Public Safety Report maligned certain communities, including the Sikh community, and is not in line with Canadian values, the report remains unchanged and continues to contain the offensive sections. The section on “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” is deeply hurtful and we still do not have any explanation as to why it was added and why it continues to remain in the report. Simply adding an addendum but leaving the report unchanged is not enough.”
Regarding Sunday’s meeting, the WSO said in a separate press release: “Despite invitations sent to over 60 MPs from across southern Ontario, the meeting was only attended by Ruby Sahota (Liberal), Garnett Genuis (CPC) and Raj Grewal (Independent). NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also attended and made a statement.”
It added: “The MPs present at the community meeting furthermore affirmed that they would work with the community to ensure Sikh representation be included on the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security.”
It also said: “The MPs who were present were presented with questions from the community about the inclusion of the term “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” and why widespread demands that it be explained or removed had not yet been heard.”
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, issued the following statement on Sunday on how certain types of extremist ideologies are described in the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada:
Providing Canadians with a clear assessment of the terrorist threats to Canada is a core element of the Government’s commitment to transparency. The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada was based on a careful review of intelligence and information from the Canadian security and intelligence community. Unfortunately, the language used to describe some threats unintentionally maligned certain communities. This is contrary to the intended purpose of the report, and is not in line with the values of the Government of Canada.
Since the publication of the report, a review of the language used to describe extremism was undertaken and is ongoing. Officials from across the security and intelligence community examined, among others, past public reports and other countries’ approaches to communicating the threat posed by terrorism, and heard from other partners and stakeholders. I met with community members to ensure that there is a better understanding of how threats should be communicated without disrespecting any communities.
As this review continues, it is apparent that in outlining a threat, it must be clearly linked to an ideology rather than a community. The Government should always carefully select terminology that focuses on the intent or ideology.
For example, as a first step, the following language will be used as and when necessary and appropriate: Extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India. Public Safety Canada has posted an addendum to the report that acknowledges that this new language should be considered in lieu of the existing language in the report.
I want to thank the many community organizations and Members of Parliament who have provided useful feedback in this process. Going forward, the Government of Canada is committed to applying a bias-free approach to the terminology used to describe any threats inspired by ideology or groups.