– Canadian Sikhs can now wear kirpans on airplanes

Sikh24 Editors

Ottawa-Ontario-Canada, 8 November 2017, The Canadian government has allowed initiated Sikhs to wear small Kirpan with 6 cm blade while boarding on domestic as well as the International flights. However, an exception has been kept on flights to United States where the Canadian Sikhs will be deprived of this facility.

According to information shared by the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Transport Canada has excluded the Kirpan with 6 cm blade from the list of items banned while boarding on Domestic as well as International flights.

It is noteworthy here that the Transport Canada is responsible for chalking out transportation policies and programs in Canada. It ensures safe, secure, efficient and environmentally-responsible transportation. Transport Canada reports to Parliament and Canadians through the Minister of Transport.

It works with its portfolio partners, other government departments and jurisdictions, and industry to ensure that all parts of Canada’s transportation system work well.

The Sikh community is already enjoying liberty of carrying Kirpan with blade up to 6 cm while boarding on flights in Europe. However, carrying Kirpan is totally banned while boarding on flights from India.

Sharing this development with Sikh24, World Sikh Organization President Mukhbir Singh said, “we welcome today’s announcement. We had shared our concerns with Transport Canada last spring with respect to the accommodation of small kirpans and remained in communication with them over this matter”.

“By adopting the European Union standard on blade length, Sikh travelers in Canada will be able to wear kirpans with blades of up to 6cm in length. It is important to understand however, that the size requirements will be enforced strictly and Sikh travelers wishing to travel with their kirpan must meet the size requirements.”


Sikh World News – WSO intervenes Canadian apex court in religious body membership case

Ottawa, Canada, 3 November 2017. In a sound expectation that the judgement is likely to impact not only the present case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding who can be a member of a religious organisation but also the Sikh Gurdwara decisions and those of other communities, World Sikh Organisation in a proactive move intervened and presented oral arguments in the Supreme Court of Canada in the landmark Highwood Congregation versus Wall case which will adjudicate on whether courts can judicially review membership decisions taken by private religious associations.

The facts of Highwood Congregation versus Wall revolve around Mr Wall who was “dis-fellowed” (expelled) from his Jehovah’s Witness congregation due to allegations of drunkenness and misbehaviour with his family. Mr Wall brought an application for Judicial Review of the Congregation’s decision alleging that the expulsion affected his livelihood as a realtor since many of his clients were Jehovah’s Witnesses who no longer gave him business.

The Court of Queen’s Bench concluded that the Court had jurisdiction to hear the Judicial Review application based on Wall’s economic interest on whether he was afforded due process before this disfellowship.

The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the lower court decision. The Congregation then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh presented oral arguments arguing that the Charter Value of state religious neutrality constrains the court from judicially reviewing the membership of private religious associations.

WSO argued that courts should only be permitted in rare instances to intervene in religious practices, where the Charter’s broader free and democratic aims are at stake, and the court’s intervention would preserve or promote these objectives in a meaningful way and where maintaining neutrality would result in actual and significant harm.

In a media statement, WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh said, “while this case is with respect to the expulsion of a Jehovah’s Witness member by the elders in his congregation, we believe that the result of this case could impact other religious communities as well, including Sikhs.

Religious associations must be allowed to choose whom to worship with, without state interference. In the Sikh faith, any decision taken by the Panj Pyare are binding, however if Wall’s arguments are successful, such decisions would potentially be subject to review as well. We believe it was important for the Court to hear about this matter from a Sikh perspective.”

Significantly, this is the fourth time WSO has represented in the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of a non-Sikh appellant. Earlier on, WSO intervened in Syndicate Northcrest verus Amselem, on behalf of the Jewish community’s rights to religious freedom, in 2005, WSO intervened in Multani versus Commission Scolaire Marguerite‑Bourgeoys with respect to the right of a Sikh student to wear his kirpan at school and in 2014 WSO had intervened in Loyola High School, et al. versus Attorney General of Quebec regarding whether legal persons such as a organizations, schools and institutions can claim protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights for freedom of religion.

Dawn – Caitlan Coleman breaks silence on captivity, says ‘was in Pakistan for more than a year’

Toronto-Ontario-Canada, 24 October 2017. Disputing claims about her rescue, the recently recovered Caitlan Coleman has said that she was in Pakistan for at least a year before she was “rescued” by Pakistan Army in an operation near the Pakistan-Afghan border earlier this month.

While speaking to the Toronto Star in her first interview since her recovery, Coleman said: “Right now, everybody’s shunting blame and making claims. Pakistan says no, they were never in Pakistan until the end. The US says, no they were always in Pakistan; it was Pakistan’s responsibility. But neither of those are true”.

She also said that she is certain that they were held in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. “We were not crossing into Pakistan that day. We had been in Pakistan for more than a year at that point.”

Coleman, an American national, revealed in the interview, published on Monday, that the couple was moved to Pakistan immediately after being kidnapped in Afghanistan.

“They first took us out of Afghanistan; it was several days’ drive,” said Coleman, who still wears a hijab after being released. She refused to comment on whether the couple has converted to Islam.

She said that her kidnappers took them to Miramshah in North Waziristan where they were kept for almost a year, adding that they knew where they were because her husband, Joshua Boyle, could understand some Farsi.

“It was very bad. My husband and I were separated at that time. He wasn’t allowed to see Najaeshi or spend any time with us.”

Najaeshi Jonah is their oldest son.

“Then we were moved to the north of Miramshah, to the house of a man who said he was called Mahmoud. He was very nice to Najaeshi and would provide us with amenities [that] we wouldn’t have otherwise,” she told the Toronto Star. “He would take Najaeshi out to get him sunlight and nobody else did that at any other point.”

She does not exactly remember the events around her rescue but does recall a gun battle while she was in the trunk of a car.

“Our first fear, why we were not poking our heads up and yelling for help, was that it was another gang trying to kidnap us. Possibly just part of the Haqqani network fighting with another part. They’re all just bandits,” she said about her rescue.

“You’re a prisoner for so long, you’re so suspicious. I was still thinking we don’t know these people, we don’t know where they’re taking us.”

Of her reaction on realising it was the Pakistani forces and not another group of captors, she said: “I think I was mostly just in shock”.

While revealing details of the rescue, Pakistan Army had said that the family had been moved from Afghanistan into Pakistan the day the operation took place, not earlier.

‘Captors killed child because Joshua refused to join them’

Backing her husband’s earlier claims of Coleman being raped in captivity and the forced abortion of their child, she said that the assault on her happened because they wanted the couple to stop contacting people who were not their guards or captors.

The Taliban had refuted the claims, saying that the child had died naturally and that the woman had not been raped in captivity.

They named their unborn child “Martyr”, she said, who was killed because the captors were angry at Boyle for not joining them.

They killed the child using using high amounts of estrogen in their food and boasted of what they had done, she told the daily.

Her next two pregnancies were kept secret and the babies were delivered by Boyle using a flashlight.

“We had a pen they didn’t know about and we were taking little scraps of paper and trying to hand out notes to anyone and everyone that wasn’t one of the guards or commanders involved in killing Martyr,” she said regarding the alleged assault against her.

“But then they took us, separated us, and beat us and that was when the assault on me happened because they wanted us to stop.”

Naming houses in Afghanistan, Pakistan

The couple and children were frequently moved between Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Coleman. They were usually drugged and kept in the trunk whenever they were moved, she said.

From their house north of Miramshah, they were then taken to Spin Ghar in Afghanistan. Coleman also shared lighter moments they had in captivity, including naming the places they were kept in.

They called one “Cat Hotel” because it looked like a hotel to them. She claimed they could see the Pakistan-Afghan border from there. The kidnappers acquired a Pakistani-styled “jingle truck” from there, told Coleman, and moved them to an area between Kohat and Bannu.

Their last “home” was named “Dar Al Musa”, she said.

“Outside everyday they were doing some training or something was going on, and some guy was shouting and we laughed because whoever Musa was, he was not doing a good job,” she said.

“He was always yelling, ‘No, no, no, Musa Musa.'”

They were there since November 2016, she said, and were then transferred to the “Mud House” just two days before their recovery.

Decision to have children in captivity

Speaking on the couple’s decision to have two children in captivity, she said that, among other things, she wanted a large family and they did not know when they would be released.

“It was a decision we made. We did think about it […] it’s difficult to explain all the reasons, but, for me, a large part was the fact that it has always been important to me to have a large family,” she said.

“This took our life away from us, this captivity with no end in sight. And so I felt that it was our best choice at that time. We didn’t know if we would have that opportunity when we came back. We didn’t know how long it would be. It was already unprecedented, so we couldn’t say, ‘Oh, we’ll only be here a year or six months.'”

Dawn – Hostage family held in Pakistan for five years: CIA

Washington DC, 20 October 2017. The CIA head said on Thursday that the US-Canadian couple kidnapped by the militants in Afghanistan were held inside Pakistan for five years before being freed last week.

“We had a great outcome last week when we were able to get back four US citizens who had been held for five years inside of Pakistan,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank in Washington.

Mr Pompeo’s remarks appeared to be the first time a US official has publicly stated that the family spent their captivity in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s military and government indicated that US citizen Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their children were rescued shortly after entering Pakistan from Afghanistan.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed the hostages were probably held by the Haqqani militant group in or near its headquarters in northwestern Pakistan the entire time.

India Today – Jagmeet Singh, Trudeau’s biggest political rival, could mean bad news for India

Here’s why Sikh politician Jagmeet Singh’s victory in Canada, and his rise as the country’s prime minister, could be problematic for the Indian government

New Delhi, 3 October 2017. Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh politician from Canada has been elected as the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada. The 38-year-old politician went viral after he was heckled by a racist woman during an event titled ‘Jagmeet and Greet’ when he was standing as a candidate a month ago.

Jagmeet Singh, a provincial lawmaker, is the first non-white person ever to head a major party in the Canada.

Singh was elected on the first ballot to lead the party into the 2019 election against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Jagmeet Singh triumphed competing against three candidates with 53.6 per cent votes.

He thanked his supporters on Twitter saying, “Thank you, New Democrats. The run for Prime Minister begins now,” after the election.

Jagmeet Singh officially announced the launch of his campaign to be the next prime minister of Canada.

Singh has also been observed to be a strong political rival of Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada. Singh plans to stand against Trudeau in the 2019 elections. It will be a challenge for him to turn things around for his party as they lost 59 seats in the 2015 elections.

Jagmeet Singh focuses on climate change, reconciliation, electoral reform and to remove children from no-fly list of Canada. He goes by the motto of ‘Love and Courage’ and even repeated it in front of the racist woman who heckled him while giving a speech as an NDP candidate.

The New Democratic Party is currently at the third place in Canada’s Parliament with 44 of 338 seats. The party has never held power.

During his leadership campaign, he raised money for the welfare of the people and was way too much as compared to his competitors.

Why Jagmeet Singh could mean bad news for the Indian government

Jagmeet Singh, who will be competing against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in two years, was denied the Indian visa by the UPA government in 2013.

Jagmeet Singh, a member of the provincial parliament (MPP) in Ontario was barred from travelling to India. According to a report by HT, he was the first ever sitting member of Western Legislature who was not allowed to travel India.

Singh was denied visa because he was considered ‘persona non grata’ by the Indian government.

Jagmeet Singh has been actively involved in criticising Indian government and has talked about the issues related to the 1984 Sikh riots. In 2016, he called the 1984 riots, “genocide”.

In an official statement on the occasion of Operation Blue Star’s anniversary, he said, “The government of India initiated a genocidal campaign against the Sikh minority”.

“The Indian military killed thousands of innocent people in just one day. This genocide continued for the next twenty years. Across Punjab, Sikh youth disappeared, torture was rampant, and Sikhs endured relentless state-sanctioned terrorism.”

He even called it an “attempt to extinguish the Sikh community”.

Singh is said to have an influence on people due to his personality and sense of style too.

Jagmeet vs. Indian government

Jagmeet Singh accused the Indian government of sabotaging his NDP campaign. He also accused Indian government of trying to use their influence to prevent members of the community from contributing to his campaign or backing him.

Before entering politics, Singh was working as defence lawyer in the Greater Toronto area. Despite of the odds, Singh’s victory proves that even though Sikhs have a percentage of 1.4 in Canada when it comes to population, the minority communities have owned their own place in the country.

The Guardian – Canada’s Jagmeet Singh becomes first non-white politician to lead major party

Justin Trudeau congratulates 38-year-old Sikh lawyer on election to lead New Democratic party into 2019 federal election

Toronto-Ontario-Canada, 2 October 2017. Jagmeet Singh, a 38-year-old lawyer and practising Sikh, was elected on Sunday to lead Canada’s left-leaning New Democrats, becoming the first non-white politician to head a major political party there.

The Ontario provincial lawmaker, whose penchant for colorful turbans and tailor-made three-piece suits made him a social media star, was elected on the first ballot to lead the New Democratic party (NDP) into the 2019 federal election against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Thank you, New Democrats. The run for prime minister begins now,” Singh tweeted.

Singh secured 54% of the vote, defeating three rivals to become the new head of the NDP, succeeding Thomas Mulcair. The results of the vote, conducted online and by mail, were announced at a party meeting in Toronto.

Trudeau congratulated his new political rival on Twitter on Sunday, saying: “I look forward to speaking soon and working together for Canadians.”

The Toronto-area politician, who has led in fundraising since joining the race in May, had been touted by supporters as someone who could bring new life to the party, which has struggled since the death of charismatic former leader Jack Layton in 2011.

Singh’s profile was boosted early last month after a video went viral showing him calmly responding with words of love to a heckler who interrupted a campaign event to accuse him of wanting to impose Shariah law in Canada.

Christopher Cochrane, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said: “His skill, in being able to defuse the situation, it understandably appealed to a lot of people who ended up supporting him.”

Cochrane added that Singh’s ability to connect both with young people and those in ethnic minorities would make him a “force to reckon with” when competing against Trudeau in 2019.

The NDP is the third largest party in the federal parliament, with 44 of 338 seats. The party lags well behind the centrist Liberals and right-leaning Conservatives in political fundraising this year, according to Elections Canada data.

Singh will now focus on rallying supporters and targeting center-left voters who helped propel Trudeau’s Liberals to a decisive victory in 2015.

There are hurdles ahead. Singh does not have a seat in the federal parliament and will have to win one in a special election. He also needs to persuade voters that his party can form a government, although it has never held power federally.

There are also questions over whether he will have success in Quebec, Canada’s mainly French-speaking province, where overt signs of faith are frowned upon. – British Airways refused water to turbaned Sikh lady on flight

Sikh24 Editors

London-UK, 29 September 2017. A young turbaned Sikh woman has alleged discrimination on a British Airways flight while traveling to Delhi, from Vancouver via London.

She posted her complaints on her Facebook page, highlighting that she was first not served water and later not served food, when other passengers were being served.

She then had to make specific requests after being ignored, before she was served. She lodged a complaint with British airways, once landed and shared her experience online.

Harsharn Kaur hails from Mohali, Chandigarh, and is a deputy producer at ABP Sanjha, a prominent Punjabi media channel.

She later shared, “While the flight from Heathrow to New Delhi was very comfortable and there were no issues but quite a few Punjabi passengers shared their similar past experiences with me”.

Upon arriving in New Delhi, she was then interviewed by Indian news channels, where she shared her feelings and experiences during the flight. She is yet to receive a reply from British Airways. – How Canadian Sikh politician Jagmeet Singh has successfully battled racism with love

Jagmeet Singh is considered the frontrunner for the New Democratic Party leadership. If this happens, it would bring an unprecedented diversity to the role.

Within the space of a few moments, Jagmeet Singh became one of Canada’s most admired politicians. His cool-under-pressure reaction to being confronted by an angry heckler is just one of the reasons Singh is considered to be the favourite contender for leadership of the federal New Democratic Party.

A video of the September 6 incident at Singh’s campaign event in Brampton, Ontario, went viral and has been viewed millions of times in Canada and around the world.

Moments into the event, an angry white woman interrupted Singh and shouted Islamophobic and vitriolic statements at him, and physically gesticulated, demonstrating her feeling of entitlement, to space, voice and position, in relation to others at the event.

Singh seemed undeterred by the outburst. His response to her rant was to rally his audience to help him relay his campaign message. He asked his guests to chant: “Love and courage”.

What is the nature of Singh’s call for love?

His political slogan is based on a message of universal love and courage. Singh’s message, and chant that evening, is uniquely situated among the slogans of the three other candidates: Charlie Angus “Got your back”, Niki Ashton “Building a movement, together”, and Guy Caron, “Let’s Build a Progressive and Sustainable Economy”.

The dramatic events at the September 6 meeting demonstrates something about Singh, as a person and as a candidate. It also points to new undercurrents of religion and spirituality and its role, not only in Canadian politics, but also in the leadership race for the New Democratic Party.

Singh’s campaign and potential leadership arrives in a climate of increasing hatred, fear and division. His call for universal love is coherent with Sikhism, which challenges the division between daily life and a devotional love that guides all thought and action.

How does the language of love and courage relate to a New Democratic Party trying to find its way in a shifting political landscape?

Singh’s outward appearance solicits questions from some Canadians, as in the case of the heckler, regarding his secular position: To what degree does Singh’s religion relate to his policy ideas or conduct?

Canada: Judeo-Christian values?

Canadian political institutions and traditions are imbued with Judeo-Christian values and symbols. Yet the separation of church and state maintains religion does not dictate the making of policy and law.

However, in the game of politics, courting ethno-racial, national and religious identified voters has become a central art of party campaign strategists.

Political parties of all persuasions have had to navigate this division in a variety of ways.

In Canada, the left social democratic tradition, represented now by the New Democratic Party, has had less experience with faith-based movements and the religious identity of its leaders than their Right-Wing counterparts and left-leaning parties elsewhere in the world. Singh’s leadership challenge will likely change that.

While Singh is positioned as a secular politician, his ethos, sense of justice and formation of his identity is connected to a Sikh practice.

The very essence of the message of universal love and courage is embedded in a Sikh devotion, rather than a secular idea of loving all humankind. Practising Sikhism defines a way of life – one that is contemplative, meditative and committed to spiritualism and positive actions.

The clash of civilisations

To understand the contemporary role of religion in politics, we need to look at one of our turning points: 9/11. The attacks on New York City and the Pentagon served as a marker of the time foreign and domestic policy in North America was called upon to name Islamic terrorism as a universal enemy.

Once North America and other western governments embraced the rhetoric of a civilisation divide, the psyche of liberal democratic nations split apart. The already tenuous divide between the religious and secular began to rupture further.

This reinforced a binary division and emboldened a powerful discourse of racism and Islamophobia. The basic premise is that Islam represents something universally distinct from Christian belief systems.

This discourse of racism and difference has gained strength and societal control through the election of conservative governments with moral platforms that build on fears and anxieties of susceptible citizens.

Sixteen years of corrosive discourses since 9/11 has led to: Us vs. Them, the Clash of Civilisations and racism.

We are now at the point of the normalisation of white supremacy. It is no longer an oddity or a left-wing conspiracy theory to discuss the presence of fascism and neo-Nazis, these are events widely circulated in our social media feeds and featured during the evening news.

Religious discrimination in Canada

Islamophobia and racism are often understood to be twinned structures of oppression. In many ways they are, but there are complex differences between them. They disseminate and exist in different political, cultural and social taxonomies.

Islamophobia operates through systems of stereotypes, often misunderstanding or misrepresenting the traditions, religious practices and customs of highly diverse ethno-national and racial communities.

Islamophobia has been manufactured in multiple ways in society through popular culture, media, policy and criminalizing targeting Islam and Muslims.

Racism is a larger systemic operation of power denigrating one race while validating or elevating another.

When the Harper Conservatives were in government, they attempted to map onto Canadian national values a form of social conservatism. This was articulated through a distinction between Canada and the “barbaric cultural practices” of others.

The clear lines that were being drawn between what Harper referred to as “old stock Canadians” during a 2015 federal leaders’ debate brought into discourse front and center the relationship between white supremacy and Islamophobia.

It connected the dots between a normative white Christian Canadian identity that could stand against the racialized others.

Now the Conservative Party has a leader who proudly accepts the label: “Harper with a Smile”.

Andrew Scheer has the support of social conservatives in the Conservative Party. He has steadfastly supported free speech over the condemnation of Islamophobia and was absent during the House of Commons vote for the Anti-Islamophobia Motion M-103, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Commons.

When losing your cool is not an option

Singh said his ability to remain cool under pressure was largely owed to his experience of being a brown, Sikh and turbaned man, growing up in the 1980s in Brampton, just Northwest of Toronto.

His past experiences of religious and racist intolerance helped to fortify him against racist language and assault. In the moment in which the racist woman yelled at him, she assumed he was a Muslim. Many wondered why Singh did not attempt to correct her misconceived perception; he is not a Muslim, but rather, a Sikh.

Suggesting such a distinction in the moment, he said, would only further the misunderstanding that somehow being Muslim means such treatment is considered justifiable. His reaction, he said, should not be to proclaim his religion. By not correcting this misconception, Singh was acting in solidarity against Islamophobia.

Sikhs have been affected throughout the post-9/11 discourses of Islamophobia, mainly because of this misunderstood identity. In the US, and elsewhere, there has been a rise in hate bias attacks against Sikhs, with the 2012 Oak Creek, Wisconsin, shooting as a visible example.

While there are those who, in the similar vein as Singh, have sought to challenge Islamophobia by standing in solidarity, there have also been many instances where Sikhs in America, the UK and Canada painstakingly distinguish themselves from Muslims.

However, in countless examples, when Islamophobia is experienced in the public sphere against properly identified Muslims, there has been a lack of outcry.

In Canada, the shooting deaths in Quebec’s Sainte-Foy’s Mosque, in which Azzedine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubakar Thabthi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, and Ibrahim Barry were killed, was unmistakably an act of terrorism.

Canadians across the country mourned this tragedy. And yet was it recognised as an act of terrorism against the citizens of this state?

The day-to-day effects of Islamophobia have led to many Muslims living with heightened experiences of fear and not knowing what they might encounter on a walk to school, a day at work or even waiting for a bus.

The left social-democrats of the New Democratic Party hold steadfastly to their conception of justice, fairness and equality in a secular world. The ways in which people are encountering the public today, however, is seemingly much murkier than these stark divisions.

The issues of racism, religious intolerance and social justice are not central issues for any federal political party. These issues, however, should no longer be viewed as separate from major policy platforms including health, welfare reform, employment, national defense, national security, aboriginal relations and education.

Perhaps a political leader such as Jagmeet Singh will be able to navigate these debates with an alacrity and style we have yet to witness in the Canadian political world.

Davina Bhandar, Adjunct Professor in School of Communication and Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.
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The Star – If Jagmeet Singh wins the NDP leadership don’t assume he will be rejected in Quebec: Hébert

The notion that Singh would not get a hearing in Quebec for the sole reason he is a practicing Sikh is based on untested assumptions

Chantal Hébert

Montreal, Bloc Québécois Leader Martine Ouellet was not really trying to stop the campaign of presumed NDP frontrunner Jagmeet Singh in its tracks when she suggested this week that he was too religious for the good of Quebec.

For notwithstanding Ouellet’s assertion that Singh’s candidacy is testament to the “rise of the religious left” Bloc strategists see his potential victory next month as the most desirable of all possible outcomes.

They have high hopes that a turban-wearing Sikh leader would drive Quebec voters in general and some of the party’s current MPs in particular away from the NDP.

The BQ is currently two seats short of the 12 members required to have official party status in the House of Commons. If Singh wins, party insiders suggest there are better than even odds that at least two Quebec NDP MPs will cross over.

That would ensure the sovereigntist party recoups the automatic speaking rights it has lost since Jack Layton almost wiped it off the map in 2011.

As a bonus, Pierre Nantel, the NDP MP who has been the most outspoken about his discomfort at the notion of serving under Singh, holds the federal riding where Ouellet would likely have the best shot at being elected in 2019. The federal riding of Longueuil-Saint-Hubert includes the BQ leader’s current provincial seat.

But the Bloc could be counting its chickens before they hatch. It would hardly be the first time.

It is possible that some New Democrat defectors will bolster the thin sovereigntist ranks in the Commons between now and 2019. But looking to the next general election, some of the assumptions behind the Singh narrative Ouellet and her party are pushing are at best untested and potentially dead wrong.

It was not so long ago that a fair number of Quebec watchers were ruling out of hand the possibility that a leader from out of the province would get the time of day from Quebecers.

Conventional wisdom also had it that support for sovereignty would rise significantly under a non-Quebec prime minister.

Then Stephen Harper and Jack Layton came along.

Even more recently it was assumed that a party led by someone whose last name was Trudeau would be shut out of majority francophone ridings.

In 2015, the Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, won a majority of Quebec seats. These days the prime minister’s Liberal party is more popular in his home-province than any of its federal and provincial counterparts.

The widespread notion that Singh would not get a hearing in Quebec for the sole reason that he is a practicing Sikh is based on the same untested assumptions as those listed above.

What if, against all current expectations, the presence on the television set of the 2019 election debates of a left-leaning Sikh NDP leader turned out to be a positive game-changer. By that I don’t necessarily mean a big NDP victory in Quebec. That may not be in the cards in two years under any of the contenders for the leadership.

But depending on the result of next fall’s Quebec election, the 2019 federal campaign may well take place against the backdrop of the province’s open-ended securalism debate.

A Mainstreet poll published by Postmedia on Friday projected a picture of a Quebec so split between the four provincial parties that it may be hard for any of them to secure a majority government next year.

Both the CAQ and the PQ are proponents of more restrictive measures to reinforce the secular character of the province’s public service.

If only for the purpose of political pedagogy, a more diverse federal leaders’ line-up could potentially do more to enrich the debate or at least offer some Quebecers a chance to consider a different perspective on the balance between religious rights and a secular state than any federal homily about charter rights.

Over the past decade, Quebec voters have turned every presumably safe notion about political mindset on its head. Prudence would suggest that one not prejudge their reaction to a Singh-led NDP.

There are valid reasons, ranging from policy preferences to concerns over Singh’s nonexistent federal experience or lack of a seat in the House of Commons, why the New Democrats could select one of his three rivals to lead the party but the fear of a Quebec backlash should not be one of them.

Chantal Hébert is a national affairs writer. Her column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The Tribune – Jassi case: Extradition hits political roadblock

Jupinderjit Singh, Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 22 September 2017. The extradition of the two main conspirators in the Jassi honour killing case is awaiting clearance from the Department of Justice, headed by Federal Justice Minister Judy Wilson Raybould.

The deportation of Jassi’s mother Malkiat Kaur and maternal uncle Surjit Singh Badesha was stayed at the last minute as their lawyers moved the department immediately after the Supreme Court of Canada had allowed their extradition about two weeks ago.

However, police sources and media reports from Canada said the lawyers and relatives of the accused were taken off guard by the swift move of the Punjab Police to send a team there for speedy extradition.

The matter seems to have gone out of the hand of the three-member Punjab Police team, which has already communicated to high-ups today that they will have to return empty-handed. The team said the Department of Justice was scheduled to hear the review petition today but adjourned it.

The state police are likely to take a decision tomorrow on recalling the team or not.

Sources said the Punjab Government may have to take up the matter politically with the Canadian Government as the case has become prestigious for fair investigation by the Punjab Police, the Indian judicial system and the condition in Punjab jails, all of which have been questioned by the accused and some Canadian analysts.

The Supreme Court had allowed the extradition of the brother-sister duo, but the Department of Justice stayed it due to a review petition filed by their lawyers.