– SGPC warmly welcomes Canadian Sikh bikers in India

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 12 May 2019. Six Canada based Sikh bikers, who are on pilgrimage to Sultanpur Lodhi in commemoration of the 550th birthday celebrations due this year, received a warm welcome on their entrance into India via Attari-Wagah border station on May 11.

The SGPC officials and the Khadoor Sahib based Kaar Sewa sect head Baba Sewa Singh honored them with Siropaos (robe of honor) and flower bouquets.

Later, all of them went to the holiest Sikh shrine Sri Harmandr Sahib and paid obeisance there. After this, they were honored with ‘Siropaos’ (robe of honor), a portrait of Sri Harmandr Sahib and a set of religious books at the Information Office of Sri Harmandr Sahib.

Sharing their experiences about this pilgrimage, they said that they received warm welcome and honor across different countries of the world during this journey. “Peoples of various nationalities gave a positive response to the valuable teachings taught by Guru Nanak Sahib,” they added.

SGPC’s chief secretary Dr. Roop Singh said that these Sikh youths have made a positive effort to create awareness about the Sikh heritage, Sikh identity and the welfare tasks being carried out by the Sikhs across the world.

In commemoration of the 550th birthday celebrations of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, these Sikh bikers had started their pilgrimage from Surrey (Canada) to Gurdwara Sri Ber Sahib (Sultanpur Lodhi) on April 3.

They also stopped at the Gent and Sint-Truiden Gurdwaras in Belgium
Man in Blue

SGPC Warmly Welcomes Canadian Sikh Bikers in India

CBC – Saskatchewan – Regina’s Sikh community plants 550 trees, giving back to ‘lungs of the planet’

Sikhs around the world are aiming to plant 1 million trees to honour founder’s birth

Regina – Saskatchewan – Canada, 12 May 2019. Sikhs around the world are hoping to plant one million trees to honour their founder and help the planet, with local community members doing their part by planting 550 trees in Regina.

“We want to make a big footprint on the planet saying that our values are values where the humankind basically benefits,” said Hem Juttla, with Guru Nanak Free Kitchen.

The Guru Nanak Free Kitchen gives back to the community by serving free meals in Regina’s North Central neighbourhood, and with other service projects.

On Saturday, they gathered at the corner of Wascana Gate and Prince of Wales Drive for the tree planting project.

“Trees are lungs of the planet,” Juttla said. “Our belief is what can we do for Regina, what can we do for Saskatchewan, what can we do for Canada, what can we do for the good of humanity.”

Sikhs in communities around the world are planting 550 trees to mark the 550 years since the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The aim is to have one million trees planted worldwide by his birth month in November.

Juttla said it’s the community’s contribution to combating climate change and deforestation.

“What we decided was that 50 per cent of our trees are going to be fruit trees, where if we don’t benefit, at least the birds and the animals can feed on that.

“So it’s a gesture not only to human beings as a gesture to all living things.”

The group will be at the Legislative Building on Saturday handing out 550 fruit and berry bushes to anyone who wants to help plant them, as part of its Sikh Day Parade events.

The Globe and Mail – The Left Behind: Vancouver exhibition documents the mass enforced disappearances – and devastation of Sikhs in India

Marsha Lederman

Vancouver – British Columbia – Canada, 06 May 2019. Mahinder Singh Pappu was 22 when he disappeared from his home in Punjab on 15 August 1991. His family searched for him for days, finally learning that he had been taken, allegedly by police and tortured.

“They beat him a lot,” his mother, Swaran Kaur, told photojournalist Abhishek Madhukar and his team.

Her son was taken three times before he tried to escape home for good. It was not possible. “The police were the ones who cremated the body,” his mother recounted. “We never saw it, just received the flowers.”

During the 1980s and 1990s, mass enforced disappearances of Sikhs, mostly young men, but also women and children, from Punjab, in northwestern India, broke up untold numbers of families.

Thousands disappeared under a state-sponsored system and are believed to have been killed extrajudicially. In many cases, their bodies were never found. Some families received what they were told were the ashes of their loved ones.

Mr Madhukar has documented the stories of those left behind in stark black-and-white photos and accompanying interview excerpts. Lapata. And the Left Behind, an exhibition of these haunting works, debuted in Vancouver on Friday, World Press Freedom Day.

“These are people who are caught in the crossfire and these stories need to be told and retold,” Mr. Madhukar said during a Skype interview from New Delhi. “I hope to show their grace as Indians, their grief, despair and courage.”

The exhibition is organized by Khalsa Aid, an international NGO that provides aid in disaster areas and civil-conflict zones.

Mr. Madhukar, a Reuters correspondent based in India, was initially commissioned by Khalsa Aid to take photos for a much smaller project in 2015. Haunted by what he saw, he returned to Punjab between 2016 and 2018 to take more photos and conduct interviews.

“It struck me that what these people are missing is a part of their lives,” said Mr. Madhukar, who is also a freelance journalist. “Some of them were very old. They could barely walk or see. But they could say things. They could understand.”

The grief is palpable in these photographs. In one dusty scene, Ms. Kaur sits between two unidentified male family members. The trio appears worn and weary; one man’s veins protrude from his thin legs. Behind them are two emaciated cows.

These losses also created economic crises for families; many of the men who disappeared were breadwinners. The objective of this exhibition is to create mainstream awareness for the tragedy, which is largely unknown outside of India and the Sikh community.

The disappearances occurred in the aftermath of what Sikhs refer to simply as “1984.” That was the year of the Indian army raid on the Golden Temple, a sacred Sikh site, where separatists calling for a Sikh state were staying. Later that year, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, leading to a wave of anti-Sikh violence.

The following year, Air India Flight 182 was bombed en route from Toronto to India, killing all 329 people on board, most of them Canadians. The flight had originated in Vancouver.

Ami Laws, professor of medicine at Stanford University, was at the exhibition’s opening to show her support. She shared what she witnessed in the 1990s , first as a doctor in San Francisco dealing with asylum seekers from Punjab, and later in Punjab, where she travelled to investigate.

“People streamed in to tell us their stories. Some had themselves been tortured. Others had had family members tortured, usually sons.”

She interviewed more than 200 people in India. “There was remarkable consistency between the descriptions of torture I heard in Punjab and the stories I heard from the asylum seekers in San Francisco. Both sets of victims described torture techniques that were designed to inflict severe pain and suffering, but leave few if any scars.”

Dr. Laws wrote about this in a 2002 paper, Police Torture in Punjab, published in the journal Health and Human Rights. “There is this continuing lack of closure and justice for all of these families,” said Jatinder Singh, director of Khalsa Aid Canada.

Mr. Singh said Canada was chosen to launch the exhibition because of its “heritage as a global refuge from state torture and injustice.” Vancouver, with its large Sikh community, felt like the right place to begin. The show is expected to travel to Toronto and Ottawa in the fall.

Globe and Mail – Journalist Zuhair Kashmeri wrote extensively about the Air India bombing

Ron Csillag

Special to the Globe and Mail

Op/Ed, 03 May 2019. Zuhair Kashmeri called himself a “writer, editor, broadcaster, and dreamer.” Widely known simply as “Kash,” he was a tenacious, resourceful journalist who scored a rare interview with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, enraged Indian officials with allegations of interference in Canada’s internal affairs and once sparked a street protest with his reporting.

Canadian authorities did not escape his scrutiny either.

In hundreds of articles for this newspaper over 15 years, Mr. Kashmeri covered crime, business and financial miscreance, the Middle East, his native India and the challenges Sikhs, Muslims and visible minorities face in this country.

He found Mr. Arafat in Baghdad in January, 1986, and sat with him for a two-hour interview for The Globe and Mail. It was a North America-wide scoop that resulted in three front-page stories.

His articles were derided in letters to the editor, however, for failing to hold the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader to account for deadly acts of terrorism, and for depicting Mr. Arafat as a man who “delights in playing with children,” especially since the PLO’s casualties included children.

Notably, Mr Kashmeri wrote extensively for this newspaper about the 1985 Air India bombing. On June 23 of that year, Air India flight 182 exploded over the southwest tip of Ireland, killing all 329 people aboard, including 268 Canadian citizens.

A related bombing at Tokyo’s Narita airport at the same time killed two baggage handlers. Sikh extremists were suspected of carrying out the attacks.

His coverage of the bombing, which included suggestions that the Indian government was running an intelligence operation in Canada aimed at dividing the Sikh community, prompted a protest in front of The Globe and Mail’s Toronto offices in December, 1985.

Four years after the disasters, Mr Kashmeri and fellow journalist Brian McAndrew explored the controversial subject further in their book, Soft Target: How the Indian Intelligence Service Penetrated Canada, which claimed that Indian spies had for years been engaged in a “devious and ruthless” operation to manipulate and destabilize Canada’s Sikh population.

India’s High Commission in Ottawa lambasted the book as “unmitigated trash,” the product of “a sick mind,” and in a colourful rebuke, said it threw “red herrings” and constituted “yellow journalism.”

Then-external affairs minister Joe Clark would neither confirm nor deny the book’s allegation that three Indian diplomats had been expelled from Canada after they were caught spying.

Robert Matas, Mr Kashmeri’s colleague at The Globe in 1980s, recalled a strong reporter who often filed exclusives, but encountered editors who were skeptical about his Air India stories, especially those about conspiracies involving the government of India.

Although suggestions of Indian government involvement were never substantiated, much in his book about the infiltration of Canada’s Sikh community by Indian agents subsequently became accepted wisdom, Mr. Matas said.

Mr Kashmeri’s work also triggered threats to his life. He and his family were placed under police protection for a time. He was harassed by callers, refused a visa to visit India and bluntly told that if he did go, he would not return alive.

Indian secret service agents even interrogated Mr Kashmeri’s aging and ailing parents in Bombay. Was the exercise worth it? “We both feel it was,” the authors wrote.

The volume’s second edition, in 2005, was subtitled The Real Story Behind the Air India Disaster, and detailed a botched investigation into the bombings by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Only a public inquiry would offer closure to the families of the victims, the authors argued presciently.

A year later, former Supreme Court justice John Major was appointed to conduct a commission of inquiry. His report, released in 2010, concluded that a “cascading series of errors” by the government of Canada, the RCMP and CSIS failed to prevent the attacks.

Mr Major had earlier rejected a request by the World Sikh Organization to call Mr Kashmeri as a witness.

Mr Kashmeri’s second book was 1991’s The Gulf Within: Canadian Arabs, Racism and the Gulf War, in which he explored racism directed at nine Arab and Muslim families in Canada in the wake of the first Gulf War. One incident he cited was bigots hate-calling every Hussein in the phone book.

Mr Kashmeri, who died on 21 December in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, of heart-related issues at the age of 72, was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on 03 December 1946. His father was the famous Bollywood screenwriter Agha Jani Kashmeri; his mother, Khursheed, was a social worker who focused on poor women.

Their son studied English and French literature at Bombay University. He earned diplomas in journalism from the city’s Siddhartha College and another from the London School of Journalism in England.

He began his career at The Indian Express, where he wrote explosive stories claiming that the government and police had conspired to under-report deaths in ethnic riots. His exposé on poor, young Muslim girls sold into slavery drew international attention.

In Canada by 1971, he was writing for a local newspaper in Brampton, Ontario. When a train passing through caught fire, Mr Kashmeri ran into a burning compartment to snap a photo from inside the inferno. As he fled, the train exploded. “He was always after that ultimate piece of the story,” his brother, Sarwar Kashmeri, said.

Fellow journalists recalled his toughness and professionalism. In an online condolence, retired Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui described “a dogged reporter with an independent streak [who] wouldn’t take orders easily from his editors at The Globe.”

However, “I was most touched that this ‘tough’ reporter was sensitive enough to look after his father who had moved to Canada and was in bad health. That was a very Indian cultural thing, if you will…”

But Indian officials had long memories. In 1997, The Star was planning a special section to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence, and Mr Kashmeri was invited to contribute. “Word soon reached me that the Indian consulate wanted his byline banished from the section,” former Star editor Kim Lockhart recalled online.

“This led to much fuss over nothing because Kash delivered a fine story that hit the mark. … He was a professional.”

Around 2000, Mr. Kashmeri began teaching a course called Covering Diversity at Ryerson University’s journalism school. “I like revolutionaries in the classroom and Kash was one of those,” recalled John Miller, emeritus professor of journalism who hired Mr. Kashmeri. “Ryerson students loved him.”

Mr Kashmeri spent three years as senior news editor and writer at Toronto’s alternative weekly, NOW magazine, followed by stints at CBC radio and television, and at Toronto’s OMNI-TV, where he did one-minute commentaries.

In 1998, he helped establish the e-business daily Until 2010, he was chief research editor at National Bank Financial.

Later in life, he did what many people in stressful jobs dream of: He and his wife opened and ran La Toscana di Carlotta, a bed and breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where, according to its website, he played “the traditional Indian role of being a consort to the innkeeper and looking after guests.”

Mr Kashmeri leaves his wife, Carlotta Cattani; his children, Shamil and Shireen; their mother and his ex-wife, Hera Kashmeri; his brother, Sarwar; and four grandchildren. A celebration of his life is planned.

Posted to Sikh News Discussion by Gurcharan Singh – Brampton – Ontario – Canada

The Toronto Sun – Photos of Canadian soldiers marching in a Khalsa Day Parade sparked questions this week.

Mark Towhy

Toronto – Ontario – Canada, 01 May 2019. On Sunday, more than 100,000 people participated in Toronto’s annual celebration of the historic day for Sikhs.

Among the parading masses, was a small squad of Canadian solders, mostly reservists from local regiments. They were dressed in camouflage combat uniforms, wore turbans and carried their military-issue C7 rifles.

Predictably, some Canadians were offended.

Why were soldiers even there? Why did they wear turbans? Why did they have rifles? Legitimate questions.

Even former soldiers, myself included, questioned why the soldiers carried their weapons on slings, “at the ready” as if on a combat patrol, rather than at the shoulder as dictated by Canadian Forces parade protocol.

Sun columnist Tarek Fatah expressed concern the presence of exclusively Sikh Canadian soldiers at an exclusively Sikh parade might further “ghettoise” the Canadian military. On Twitter, he asked, “What next? Jewish soldiers to mark Yom Kippur or Hindu soldiers marching for Diwali?”

Maybe. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Canadians should be encouraged to ask questions about their military. I hope they hear the answers. And, I hope those answers make them more comfortable seeing Canadians in uniform. Here’s my take on the most common questions:

1. Why were soldiers in the parade?

Maintaining a strong connection with the community is important: For our soldiers, who need to know who they’re fighting for. For the Canadian Forces that needs support from our society to survive in both peace and war. For the community, that needs to understand Canada has an army, our soldiers are their neighbours, and they’re here to serve them.

In this case, the parade was an important celebration for the Sikh community. The Canadian Forces was invited. Many Canadian soldiers are Sikhs. This was their chance to celebrate with others who share their faith and to demonstrate how proud they are to serve in uniform.

2. Why were they wearing turbans?

The turban is the official military headdress for Sikhs in Canada’s military. That’s their uniform.

3. Why wear camouflage?

These soldiers were primarily reservists from different regiments and each regiment has its own ceremonial uniform. Some younger soldiers may not yet have been issued those uniforms. But, they all have a combat uniform. I would have preferred to see them in dress uniform, but I understand the instinct to look… well… uniform.

4. Why carry rifles?

A rifle is the most important tool used by soldiers to protect Canadians, so it’s something we should expect to see when we see a soldier. Because our government is particularly squeamish about firearms, however, troops often do not carry rifles in community parades. Pity.

What raised my eyebrows, though, was how these soldiers were carrying their weapons. They were carrying them on slings, at the ready, as if they were on a combat patrol. That is not normal. In fact, I’ve never seen it done in a parade before. It shouldn’t have happened.

5. Is someone in trouble?

Oh, yeah. Both the commander who authorized the marching contingent to carry rifles (against government policy) and whoever told them how to carry the rifles (just plain stupid) definitely have some ‘splainin’ to do!

TOWHEY: Why were soldiers at Khalsa Day parade?

CBC News – Military scrambles to explain why soldiers given assault rifles for Toronto Sikh parade

Soldiers, many of them turban-wearing Sikhs, marching in the Khalsa parade carrying guns – not normally allowed

Toronto – Ontario – Canada, 30 April 2019. The Canadian military is scrambling to explain why a group of soldiers was issued weapons to march in a Toronto parade on Sunday for Canada’s Sikh community.

Photos and videos of the event show the soldiers, many of them turban-wearing Sikhs, marching in the Khalsa parade in military uniforms and carrying assault rifles, which the military says is not normally allowed. They were also escorted by an armoured vehicle.

The only time service members can carry weapons in public is during certain military parades or demonstrations such as a tattoo, according to Canadian Army spokeswoman Karla Gimby.

The commanding officer of the Lorne Scots reserve unit, which is based in Mississauga, signed off on the weapons, Gimby added, after his commander approved participation in the parade and asked him to organize the soldiers’ participation.

‘Not in keeping’ with manual

“Normally, weapons are not carried at such events,” she said in an email. “The decision to have personnel in full fighting order was made by the local commander and was not in keeping with the Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial.”

The army’s top commander in Ontario, Brigadier-General Joe Paul, is following up with the unit and has issued additional orders prohibiting the carrying of weapons at similar events, Gimby said.

The military could not immediately say whether a formal investigation or disciplinary action had been launched.

Held to commemorate the Sikh holy day of Vaisakhi, the annual Khalsa parade in Toronto has grown over the years to become one of Canada’s largest such events, with an estimated 100,000 attendees.

This year’s parade also coincided with the federal government’s decision to remove a reference to Sikh extremism from a report on terrorism after it was added for the first time in December, sparking outrage from members of the community.

Balpreet Singh Boparai, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization in Canada, acknowledged that some might try to use the photos and videos of Sunday’s parade to stir up fears of Sikh extremists infiltrating the Canadian Forces.

But he said the Khalsa parade has nothing to do with extremism, adding the military has participated in many such events before and, “personally, I believe if this was a group of white soldiers, people who don’t look different, it wouldn’t have been an issue”.

The Tribune – Nijjar’s appointment to steer Referendum 2020 shows true colours of SFJ: Amarinder

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 April 2019. Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said the appointment of a wanted Khalistani terrorist to spearhead the Khalistan Referendum 2020 campaign had exposed the true motive and intent behind the separatist movement.

He urged the Centre to press the global community to join India in cracking down on this grave threat to its peace and security.

Reacting strongly to the media reports of the roping in by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was on the list of wanted persons he had shared with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during their meeting in Amritsar in February 2018. Amarinder expressed concern over the Canadian government’s covert and overt support to the hardliners operating from its soil.

Even as he urged Trudeau not to play with fire by allowing such elements to use Canadian territory to disrupt India’s peace and stability, the CM called upon the Indian government to take a more proactive stand in dealing with these forces trying to unleash trouble in the country, particularly Punjab.

He expressed concern over Canada’s failure to rein in such hardline elements seeking to disturb India’s peace and security. He warned that allowing such elements would be detrimental to Canada’s own safety and security in the long run.

Amarinder said Nijjar was accused by India of running a terror camp in British Columbia, besides being accused of target killings in India and conducting weapons training for anti-India terrorists in the West.

The Referendum 2020 had never been the peaceful movement it claimed to be, but by roping in Nijjar, it was clear that SFJ had given up all pretensions of steering a non-violent campaign, the CM said.

Canada does not seem to think that Hardeep Singh is a dangerous terrorist, Amarinder Singh disagrees.
Which judgement would you trust ?

Huffington Post – Vaisakhi celebrates the Canadian Sikh values now under threat in Quebec

Bill 21 would exclude many Sikhs from classrooms, courtrooms and other public sectors where selfless service is most needed.

Montreal – Quebec – Canada, 23 April 2019. We recently observed Vaisakhi, the biggest festival in the Sikh calendar. Vaisakhi marks the founding of the Khalsa, the collective of initiated Sikhs, by the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is not, as is often said, the Sikh New Year.

In 1699, at Anandpur Sahib (in present-day Punjab, India), the Guru called for the heads of those willing to sacrifice themselves. One by one, five Sikhs came forward into a tent. They later re-emerged wearing Sikh military attire and became known as Panj Pyare: the “five beloved ones.” They became the first Khalsa (initiated) Sikhs, and started a collective that today includes millions.

The occasion is celebrated by Sikhs through a nagar kirtan, or street procession of the Sikh Scriptural Guru, Guru Granth Sahib, led by five Sikhs who represent the Panj Pyare. Nagar kirtans include food, the singing of hymns and martial arts displays. Nagar kirtans are usually referred to as Sikh or Khalsa parades in North America.

Sikhs have been holding nagar kirtans in Canada for over 100 year. The first is thought to have been in 1908. Since then, they have grown to become some of the largest Sikh gatherings outside of India.

The Surrey, B.C. nagar kirtan last year saw over a quarter million Sikhs and non-Sikhs participating.

Vaisakhi is more than a celebration of the past

What do you see at a nagar kirtan? Largely, everything you will see in a Gurdwara.

There will be free vegetarian food, thanks to langar, the free Sikh communal kitchen service that is found in every single Gurdwara on earth. Judging from the reaction of many, food is one of the main things people enjoy about nagar kirtans.

However, as well as providing food for the stomach, Sikhs aim to provide food for the soul, too. That can come in the form of kirtan (devotional hymns).

Sikhs accompany the Guru Granth Sahib, singing shabads. Whilst hymn-singing is a normal part of most faiths, in Sikhi the music is integral to Sikh practice. All holy Sikh scripture is uniquely arranged by musical measure. Sikhs don’t just remember the Divine, but through devotional music, connect to it.

One of the most visually stunning sights of a nagar kirtan is the display of gatka, a Sikh weaponry martial art.
Although in the modern-day Sikh martial prowess is most commonly celebrated based on the hundreds of thousands of Allied Sikhs who participated in First and Second World Wars, the solidification of the martial aspect of the Sikhs goes back to the 1600s, when practices like gatka became crucial as Sikhs became the resistance against tyrannical Mughal rule.

Through modern-day displays, you can see our readiness to defend ourselves, to defend others, and where the inspiration to do so comes from.

Swords and samosas aside, nagar kirtans are expressions of Sikh sovereignty. Guru Granth Sahib is the eternal, worldly and divine, Sikh Sovereign. Canada’s Parliament was established in 1867, but even a hundred years before then, the Sikh Gurus were establishing political institutions of their own.

The divine light of the Guru Granth Sahib is also embodied in the Panj Pyare, who serve a critical Sikh political function. A nagar kirtan shows not just our present, but our past, too.

Quebec Bill 21’s impact on Sikh communities

The nagar kirtan is both an expression and celebration of our very being. And we invite everybody to join us at them, and to come see us for who we are.

This year it’s especially important. Secularism in Quebec is nothing new, but the impending Bill 21 from its provincial government poses very real threats to estimated 15,000 Sikhs in Quebec who wish to serve there.

For example, Sikhs that wish to join the police force would be prevented from joining because of their commitment to the Khalsa, the very same group that are celebrated by millions of Canadians during Vaisakhi.

Initiation into the Khalsa is more than just a baptism or confirmation, it is an unconditional dedication of one’s mind, body and wealth to the Guru. Sikhs of the Khalsa, with their uncut hair, turbans and kirpans, vow to serve and protect.

And yet they are the very people who will be excluded from Quebec’s classrooms, courtrooms and countless other places where the Khalsa spirit could be so beneficial to all Canadians, just as it has been many a time before; from community support for those impacted by the Fort McMurray fires to the countless Sikh individuals that help their community regularly based on the Sikh belief in seva (selfless service).

A Sikh’s uncut hair and turban has deep spiritual and political meaning, brilliantly explained by the likes of B.C.-based poet Jasmin Kaur. It is an assertion of a confidence that should be celebrated, which should serve as a role model for schoolchildren.

When you come to a nagar kirtan, you will see the irony in the attempt to curtail the rights of individuals who proudly and defiantly stand up for the rights of others. Come to a nagar kirtan, join us and ask questions about who we are.

And perhaps ask yourself afterwards: does Bill 21 reflect how Canadian Sikhs should be treated?

Harman Singh : Educator for Basics of Sikhi, a Sikh educational outlet dedicated to teaching Sikh philosophy, history, spirituality and scripture.

Vancouver Sun – Sikh-Canadian activists put on no-fly list after Trudeau’s India visit; critics say aim was to appease Indian government

Under the Secure Air Travel Act, the three have been told there are reasonable grounds to suspect they might ‘threaten transportation security’

Tom Blackwell

Vancouver – British Columbia – Canada, 22 April 2019. At least three Sikh-Canadian activists have been added to the Canadian no-fly list in recent months, more evidence the federal government may have changed its approach to advocates of Punjabi independence after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s controversial India trip.

Under the Secure Air Travel Act, the three have been told there are reasonable grounds to suspect they might “threaten transportation security,” or travel by air to commit terrorist acts.

Two of the three have filed court challenges to the decisions, saying the system for barring people from air travel is unfair and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One had flown from Ontario to Vancouver, only to be told when he attempted to board his return flight he was on the list, requiring him to drive back across the country.

Critics say they suspect the no-fly additions were made to appease New Delhi after Trudeau’s visit in February 2018, which brought to the surface the Indian government’s growing concerns about alleged Sikh extremism.

Moninder Singh, president of a major BC gurdwara, or Sikh temple, and an outspoken community leader, said the three activists who contacted him all received notice of their no-fly designation last year, in the wake of the prime minister’s ill-fated tour.

“They are activists, all of them in the Sikh community, quite vocal, against India in many ways,” Singh said. “Maybe these are key people they’re focusing in on, trying to silence, and this is one of the ways to do it. Stop them from being able to move around, make them feel they are being cornered.”

Singh linked the apparent trend to the latest, controversial edition of an annual Public Safety Canada report on terrorist threats, which included alleged Sikh extremism for the first time.

That reference sparked outrage among community leaders, prompting the government earlier this month to remove the specific mention of Sikhs or Khalistanis, those who advocate for an independent Sikh homeland in Punjab state. The report now cites those pushing for the separation of part of India.

Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada, said security reasons prevent the department from commenting on who is added to the “passenger protect” list or how many people are on it.

“Individuals can only be added if they meet the legal threshold under the act,” he said.

The two men who appealed their targeting both related similar experiences in court applications.

Bhagat Singh Brar was given written notice at Vancouver airport on April 24, 2018. He appealed to the government’s Passenger Protect Inquiries Office, which provided an unclassified summary of the information used in his case, and indicated Public Safety Canada had other, classified material, as well.

A department official upheld the original decision on 21 December.

Parvkar Singh Dulai received notice at Vancouver airport last 17 May, with Public Safety Canada eventually confirming the decision this 30 January his court filing says.

Moninder Singh said a third Sikh-Canadian man found out in December he was on the list.

Richard Fowler, Brar’s Vancouver-based lawyer, would offer little comment as the case is before the courts, but claimed the evidence the government showed his client to back up its decision was “unbelievably thin,” including clippings from Indian media outlets that are often overtly pro-government.

The challenge of the legislation itself is based on the “almost impregnable” decision-making process behind the no-fly list, Fowler said. Blocked passengers are barred from seeing any information used against them if the government believes doing so would endanger national security or individual people.

Fowler suspects the recent inclusion of Sikhs is a response to the strained Canadian-Indian relationship. “It’s not a coincidence that people were added after the prime minister returned from what was widely described as a calamitous trip to India,” he said.

Trudeau’s tour was marred by a series of widely mocked photo opportunities, and the attendance at an event of Jaspal Atwal, convicted of attempting to murder a visiting Indian cabinet minister in B.C. in 1986.

Before the trip, Canadian officials held several meetings with their Indian counterparts to “address more effectively India’s growing concerns regarding the rise of extremism,” a parliamentary committee said in its report on the episode.

There were also charges of meddling by New Delhi. In a background briefing with Canadian media, the prime minister’s national-security advisor suggested the Indian government may have been behind the spread of the Atwal story.

The parliamentary committee’s findings on allegations of “foreign interference,” however, were censored from the public version of its report.

With files from Brian Platt in Ottawa

The minister does not personally decided no-fly list appeals


The Tribune – Removing Khalistani extremist references detrimental to both India and Canada: Amarinder

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 14 April 2019. Joining protests against Canadian government’s decision to remove all references to Khalistani extremism in its 2018 report on terrorist threats, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said on Sunday that the move was “a threat to Indian and global security”.

Captain Amarinder expressed shock at the ruling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government’s decision saying it was “an unpardonable act in the eyes of the peace-loving global community” that was “protecting its political interests” in a year of elections.

He also warned that the development could have serious consequences for Indo-Canadian relations in the long run.

“Trudeau was playing with fire with his decision to assuage inflamed domestic passions through this ill-considered move,” he added, adding that he had given proof of Canadian soil being used to spread the separatist Khalistani ideology during Trudeau’s visit to India.

“Such an act amounted to endorsement of the terror activities and de facto promotion of extremism, said Captain Amarinder, condemning outright the selective changes made by the Canadian government in its report on threats.

“Only references with respect to Khalistan and related terms had been targeted by Trudeau administration,” he noted, adding that it appeared to be a clear case of the Canadian government giving in to political compulsions.

“It was obvious that Trudeau had played safe in view of the upcoming elections in Canada, giving in to pressure within his country.

In the process, he had quite blatantly ignored the adverse impact this could have not only on Canada’s relations with India but also on geopolitical stability,” Amarinder Singh said, saying the decision would be detrimental to the interests of both India and Canada.

Trudeau’s Liberal Party of Canada will face elections later this year.

Even peacefully ‘spreading the separatist Khalistani ideology’ is included by the Indian authorities
In the Indian democracy you are only free to say what suits the rulers