The Indian Express – Quebec top court upholds kirpan ban at provincial legislature

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their kirpans as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

Montreal-Quebec-Canada, 21 February 2018. A Canadian court has upheld the right of Quebec’s national assembly to prohibit people from entering the building with a kirpan, an article of faith for the Sikhs, media reports said.

Two members of the World Sikh Organisation of Canada were challenging a unanimous motion adopted in the national assembly in February 2011.

Balpreet Singh and Harminder Kaur did not want to part with their kirpans as they headed into a legislature hearing to submit a brief in January 2011.

The motion stated that security personnel had the right to refuse entry to anyone who did not want to remove the religious symbol. Originally, they argued the motion was unconstitutional but then changed their position to say it was legal but non-binding.

But Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Patrick Healy rejected their arguments in a decision on Monday as he upheld a lower-court ruling that said the national assembly has the right to establish its own rules in accordance with parliamentary privilege, The Toronto Star reported yesterday.

The court ruling coincided with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India where his government is reaching out to the minority community to mend fences.

Superior Court Justice Pierre Journet affirmed the authority of the legislature to “exclude kirpans from its precincts as an assertion of parliamentary privilege over the exclusion of strangers,” the report said.

In his decision, Healy referred to a Supreme Court ruling that said a provincial legislature could invoke the privilege to exclude strangers to prevent journalists from filming in the precincts of the assembly.

“The Supreme Court confirmed that these general principles formed part of Canadian constitutional law and held specifically that the privilege to exclude strangers is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution,” Healy wrote on behalf of a three-member panel.

“I make no comment whether the assembly’s exercise of the privilege to exclude the kirpan is a wise decision. I say only that it is a legal exercise of this category of privilege. If the appellants wish to challenge it, the proper forum is the assembly itself,” it said. Yesterday, Singh said an appeal is being considered.

“We haven’t reached a decision,” he said in an interview. Obviously, the judgment just came out on Monday and we received it late in the day yesterday, so we’re still reviewing it.

But an appeal is certainly one of our options and we’re considering it very seriously,” Singh said. Julius Grey, one of the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs, also said he is not ruling out an appeal with the Supreme Court. “I don’t agree with the judgement and I believe it is highly appealable,” Grey said.

In 2011, several Sikhs were denied entry into the Quebec legislature amid a heated debate over multiculturalism and where to draw the line when it comes to tolerating cultural practices.

Security officials at the Assemblé Nationale refused to let them in because they were wearing kirpans. The Canadian prime minister is on week-long visit to India where he will be meeting Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

The Trudeau government is reaching out to mend fences with Singh who has accused it of including Sikh separatists in its Cabinet, CBC reported.

Sikhs make up less than two per cent of India’s population. But among Indian-Canadians, they form the largest group and have the greatest political clout; all four of Trudeau’s Indian-Canadian ministers are of Sikh origin.


The Tribune – London remembers Sophia Duleep Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, 20 February 2018. As the UK commemorates the centenary of women’s suffrage, Sikh princess Sophia Duleep Singh is featuring in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s series celebrating women behind some of the greatest achievements and discoveries in Britain’s capital.

Every week this year, the Mayor is telling a woman’s story from his Instagram account. This week is dedicated to Sophia, daughter of Duleep Singh, the last Sikh Maharaja. She was one of the major suffragettes of the movement that secured British women the right to vote.

Her 1910 march, which was led by her along with Emmeline Pankhurst, to the House of Commons, where her comrades were attacked and molested by the police, is legendary. On another occasion, Sophia had thrown herself before the Prime Minister’s car holding a placard saying, “Give women the vote”.

Yesterday, Sadiq Khan wrote on his Instagram account: “Princess Sophia was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and campaigned for women’s votes nationally as well as locally in Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames.
She was often seen selling newspaper The Suffragette outside Hampton Court, and led a 400-strong demonstration to Parliament on Black Friday in 1910.

A committed campaigner to women’s rights more broadly, Sophia also belonged to the Women’s Tax Resistance League. #HiddenCredits #BehindEveryGreatCity”.

Sophia’s name will also be etched on the statue of feminist Millicent Fawcett, to be unveiled in Parliament Square.

The Statesman – Tight security in Amritsar ahead of Canadian PM Trudeau visit

Amritsar/Chandigarh-Panjab-India, 20 February 20 2018. Tight security was in place in and around this holy city for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the Golden Temple complex on Wednesday.

Government security agencies and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) officials were on Tuesday working to ensure the visit to the Sikh shrine goes without hindrance or controversy since radical Sikhs may seek to rake up the issue of a separate Sikh homeland “Khalistan”.

Hundreds of personnel of Punjab Police and other security agencies were stationed at the Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport near here, and on the road from the airport to the Golden Temple complex and other areas, Trudeau is expected to visit.

Trudeau, on an eight-day visit to India, will arrive in Amritsar on Wednesday from Mumbai and offer prayers at the Golden Temple or “Harmandar Sahib” — the holiest Sikh shrine.

The visit holds political and social significance in Canada as that country has a substantial Indian diaspora, a majority of them from Punjab.

Trudeau, according to police sources, has asked local authorities to let him and his family, including three minor children, enjoy the spirituality of the Golden Temple during the visit.

He will be received at the Golden Temple entrance by SGPC President Gobind Singh Longowal.

Radical groups like the Dal Khalsa want to raise the issue of self-determination for the Sikhs during the visit.

Amritsar Police Commissioner S S Srivastava said adequate security arrangements have been made for the Canadian Prime Minister’s visit.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said he will meet Trudeau during his visit to Amritsar.

Amarinder Singh tweeted that he was looking forward to “one-on-one” meeting with the Canadian leader and said he was hopeful the meeting will help strengthen close India-Canadian business ties and people-to-people relations.

There was uncertainty over Amarinder Singh’s meeting with Trudeau as the former had refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, the first Sikh Defence Minister of a Western country, during a visit to Punjab in April last year.

Amarinder Singh had labelled Sajjan and other Canadian Ministers of Indian origin as “Khalistani sympathisers”.

Sajjan and three other Canadian federal ministers of Punjab origin are travelling with Trudeau during the visit.

Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said his group hopes Trudeau’s visit to the Golden Temple would be a “historic one” in promoting Sikh-Canadian relations.

Pakistan Today – Government following Islam’s principles of inter-religious harmony, tolerance: Shehbaz

Lahore-Panjab-Pakistan, 20 February 2018. Panjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said the government was following the golden principles of Islam including that of inter-religious harmony and tolerance.

He stated this during a meeting with spiritual leader of Sikh Community and Nishkan Group Chairman Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia who called on him at his office in Lahore. During the meeting, a bilateral discussion was held with regard to celebrations on the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak Devji.

The chief minister assured full cooperation of the Punjab government with regard to the celebrations and said that full protection of constitutional rights of the minority communities including Sikhs has been ensured in Pakistan.

“Historic steps have been taken for the wellbeing and prosperity of the Sikh community living in Punjab,” he said and added that all possible steps were being taken for the maintenance, protection and up-keeping of the Sikh Gurudwaras and other religious places of all the minority communities.

“In fact, protection of fundamental rights of the minority communities along with the protection of their life and property is part of the government’s priorities. It is sanguine that Sikhs, as well as all the religious minorities, enjoy complete religious freedom along with constitutional rights.

It is a governmental policy to ensure the protection and provision of different facilities to the Sikh community and other religious minorities for performing their religious rituals. Along with it, implementation of the minority quota in public sector recruitments is also being ensured and we feel proud to serve the Sikh brethren,” he added.

Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia said that they are thankful to the CM Shehbaz for providing different facilities to the Sikh community along with the maintenance of the religious places and their beautification.

The steps taken by the Punjab government for the wellbeing of the Sikh community are laudable and credit of complete religious and inter-faith harmony goes to Shehbaz.

“The chief minister is a visionary leader who is loved not only in Pakistan but abroad as well,” he said.

CM Message on International Mother Language Day

Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said the protection and preservation of mother languages is the collective societal responsibility of all of us as the education provided in one’s mother language leaves positive impacts on the children’s mental growth.

In his message on the International Mother Language Day 2018, the chief minister said the importance of mother language could not be ignored in the modern era as language was not only a tool of communication and expressions of ideas, but different nations were identified through their languages.

“The status of mother languages is recognised as a symbol of cultural heritage and national identity. Different words and sentences depict norms, civilisation and socio-cultural experiences of human beings spanning over centuries.

In fact, language is such a social trait which is transferred to every generation and is considered as the most effective source of survival and promotion of societal heritage.

Language is the most important identity of human beings and nations and that is why it’s considered as one of the fundamental rights,” said CM Shehbaz while adding that languages also result in a better understanding of diverse linguistic and cultural traditions found in different parts of the world.

CM Condemns unproked Indian firing at LOC

Earlier, the chief minister strongly condemned the unprovoked firing by the Indian Army at the line of control. He expressed grief and condolence on the martyrdom of an eight-year-old child and offered his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved family.

He said that the brutalities of the Indian forces were extremely condemnable, and the Indian army was blatantly violating human rights by targeting civilians. He also said that the cruel face of India had been fully exposed.

The Times of India – Sikh mayor in US faces death threats

I P Singh

Jalandhar-Panjab-India, 19 February 2018. Indian American lawyer Ravinder Singh Bhalla, who was elected first Sikh mayor of Hoboken city in New Jersey some three months ago, has acknowledged he and his family are facing death threats after an unidentified man left a bag in his office in his office.

Days before his election, Bhalla was linked with “terrorism” in a slanderous flyer. Hoboken police department said it has taken the incident with incredible seriousness and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force has also evaluated the City Hall.

A statement on the official website of the Hoboken City Council revealed that the police department was investigating the incident which occurred on Thursday night and this also quoted Bhalla disclosing death threats to him and his family.

“A male individual entered City Hall through the Newark Street entrance just before 8 pm on Thursday, February 15, 2018. The person went through metal detectors and told security officers that he was going to use the restroom. At the time, the only person in the mayor’s office was deputy chief of staff Jason Freeman.

Mayor Bhalla was on his way to the office following a community meeting. From his office, Mr Freeman observed that a bag with an object had been thrown in the direction of the administrative assistant’s desk and made eye contact with the individual.

The individual then ran out of the mayor’s office. Mr Freeman called the police, which are currently investigating the incident,” added the statement.

“This incident, along with death threats to me and my family, is an unfortunate reminder that we need to take security seriously,” said Bhalla.

“The Joint Terrorism Task Force has evaluated City Hall, and we have been working to implement their recommendations for physical and procedural changes to improve security for all employees in the building,” he added.

“We take incidents like these incredibly seriously and will continue working to ensure the security of the mayor and everyone who visits City Hall,” said Hoboken police chief Kenneth Ferrante.

Bhalla, an attorney and civil rights activist, had earlier served serving as a councilman on the city council.

However, during the run-up to the election, slanderous flyers were spotted on the car windshields on which “Don’t let terrorism take over our town” was printed above Bhalla’s photograph. “A potential conflict of interest that could cost Hoboken taxpayers millions” was printed along with the photograph, leading to a major controversy.

CBS News – Harjit Singh Sajjan asks Justin Trudeau to meet Indian politician who accused Canada of Sikh separatist sympathies

Harjit Singh Sajjan was snubbed by Punjab CM Amarinder Singh when he visited India last April

Ottawa-Ontario-Canada, 18 February 2018. The Canadian government is now seeking a meeting with the Indian politician who publicly accused members of Trudeau’s cabinet of being connected to the Sikh separatist movement.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family spent much of their first full day in India touring the Taj Mahal and visiting an elephant rescue sanctuary, behind the scenes efforts were being made to extend an olive branch to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

At the request of Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, who was snubbed by Singh when Sajjan visited India last April, Canada’s high commissioner was dispatched to set up a meeting with Singh, Trudeau and Sajjan later this week.

Trudeau is scheduled to be in Punjab Wednesday for a visit to the Golden Temple, the holiest site in Sikhism. Three days ago, Trudeau’s officials denied Indian media reports that Singh, the head of that province’s government, was to serve as Trudeau’s tour guide at the temple, and said no meeting was planned.

On Sunday afternoon however, those same officials said a meeting is now being sought. Indian media are also reporting Singh has asked the Indian external affairs ministry to help him secure a meeting with Trudeau.

Singh has accused multiple Trudeau cabinet ministers of being Khalistani sympathizers and has been the most vocal with allegations that Canada’s Sikh communities are a hotbed of Sikh separatists, giving oxygen to extremist elements of the cause.

Khalistan is the name of the independent Sikh state sought by some members of the Sikh community.

Ministers deny cause for concern

Trudeau’s appearances at events where it was believed Sikh separatist leaders were also present ruffled feathers in Delhi over the last two years, and the issue has been raised in private conversations between Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trudeau is scheduled to meet with Modi in New Delhi on Friday.

A motion in the Ontario legislature last year to label anti-Sikh riots at the Golden Temple in 1984 as a genocide, and recent decisions by more than a dozen Canadian gurdwaras to ban entry to Indian diplomats in their official government capacity, have added fuel to India’s concerns about a growing Khalistani effort coming out of Canada.

Trudeau’s India mission mixes global business with local politics

Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, including Sajjan, have loudly denied there is any reason for concern. On 7 February Sajjan called Singh’s accusations “offensive” and “ridiculous.”

The Khalistan issue has threatened to cloud Trudeau’s trip but Canadian officials in India tried to downplay it Sunday, saying the relationship couldn’t be sidetracked by a single concern.

They pointed to the 30 per cent growth in trade between Canada and India over the last few years, as well as growth in the number of Canadian companies doing business there. The number of Indian students studying in Canada has also tripled in the last three years to 124,000 in 2017.

Trudeau is expected to make a statement during this trip reiterating Canada’s policy in favour of a united India, but stressing Canada will not crack down on Sikhs in Canada expressing peacefully their desire for an independent state.

A difference of opinion on freedom of speech has been cited by some Indian policy experts as a reason for the dispute between Canada and India over the Khalistan movement, as Delhi would prefer Trudeau do more to quiet any calls among Indian Canadians.

The right to freedom of expression was one of many rights issues raised with Trudeau at a meeting with non-governmental organizations Sunday evening.

Some were so afraid of reprisals for speaking with him the Canadian government cancelled a planned photo op and refused to release the names of the individuals or even their organizations.

Trip a form of ‘work-life balance

Earlier in the day Trudeau, his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their children, Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien, flew to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Trudeau said he had first been there 35 years ago on a prime ministerial trip with his father, but Pierre Elliott Trudeau had to work and couldn’t join him.

“For me to be able to be here on an official trip while bringing my kids with me to share this is really special,” he said. “It sort of shows for me how work-life balance has evolved a bit.”

Grégoire Trudeau laughed a little at the latter statement, saying “we’re trying.”

Later they drove north of Agra to the SOS Sanctuary and Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, where they fed fruits and vegetables to a 23-year-old rescued elephant named Laxmi.

The Times of India – Behbal Kalan firing probe shifted to Ferozepur police from Faridkot

Neel Kamal

Bathinda-Panjab-India, 18 February 2018. The Punjab Police have handed over the investigations into the killing of two Sikhs in police firing on October 14, 2015, at Behbal Kalan village in Faridkot to Ferozepur senior superintendent of police (SSP). The duo were part of the protest held against sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

Ferozepur police would reinvestigate the incident after forming a special investigation team (SIT). Bathinda zone inspector general (IG) M S Chhina confirmed the shifting of investigations to Ferozepur from Faridkot.

Sources said the Faridkot police had failed to solve the case even after 28 months of the incident. The Ferozepur police have now sought the relevant record from registration of the FIR to investigation report from their Faridkot counterpart.

Sources also said bullets fired from police weapons had been kept for many days at the Bajkakhana police station before these were provided to the central forensic science laboratory (CFSL) at Chandigarh.

Torn pages of Guru Granth Sahib were found scattered outside the gurdwara at Bargari village on October 12, 2015. Nearly 200 persons were holding protest at Behbal Kalan when police had fired on them on October 14, in which Sarawan resident Gurjit Singh and Niamia Wala resident Krishan Bhagwan Singh had died and others had sustained injuries.

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had formed a commission led by Punjab and Haryana high court former judge Justice Ranjit Singh (retired) to look into the incidents of sacrilege in the state and the Behbal Kalan incident. The commission has sought time from the CM to hand over its probe report.

The investigations into the case till now were being conducted by Faridkot police through an SIT under superintendent of police (investigations).

IG Chhina told TOI, “The bureau of investigations has handed over the probe into Behbal firing to Ferozepur police, which will investigate the matter by forming an SIT.” He declined to give reasons behind shifting of the investigations to police of another district.

When contacted, Faridkot SSP Nanak Singh said, “An SP-level officer of Faridkot was investigating the case. Now, it has been shifted to Ferozepur police. We have no idea of handing over the probe to another district. It is the prerogative of the DGP.”

Ferozepur SSP Pritam Singh said, “I have not received the formal orders yet to investigate the matter. Anything could be said about the matter after getting the orders.”

The Huffington Post – Sikh activist’s campaign a reminder that love can be a force for justice

“The greatest social movements in history were rooted in the ethic of love,” says Valarie Kaur.

Carol Kuruvilla

Religion, 14 February 2018. On Valentine’s Day, love is typically celebrated as an intense, personal feeling, an intimate, romantic bond that ties two humans together. But a Sikh American activist wants to challenge people to think about love in much more expansive terms.

Valarie Kaur, a lawyer and a longtime interfaith organizer, believes love can be used as a force for social justice. She points to the examples of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, whom she said used love to ground their social movements.

“I believe … that the greatest social movements in history were rooted in the ethic of love,” the 37-year-old told the Huffington Post.

On Wednesday, Kaur teamed up with other activists to launch a social media effort that she hopes will encourage people to “reclaim love” as a force for good in the world during a time of increased polarization.

She’s enlisted the help of others interested in tackling rising white nationalism and hate during the presidency of Donald Trump, CNN host Van Jones, founder of the activist organization #LoveArmy, the organizers of the Women’s March, and Our Three Winners, a foundation created to honor three Muslim students who were killed in a shooting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 2015.

The #ReclaimLove campaign is a “cultural intervention,” Kaur said, that seeks to unite a divided America.

“Last year we saw an onslaught of executive orders, Muslim bans, border walls, pipelines, budget cuts, hate crimes. We barely had a chance to breathe between the crises,” she said. “But we know that unless we ground our resistance in love, unless we ground our movement in love, we will burn out or we will become the very thing that we are resisting.”

Dozens of social media users have chimed in to support Kaur’s campaign online.

Kaur’s work as an activist began years ago. She was deeply affected when a close family friend, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was killed in a hate crime days after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The injustice of Sodhi’s death inspired Kaur, a California native, to seek out ways to increase interfaith understanding and solidarity. For years, the Sikh American woman worked as a filmmaker and an activist who sought to bring awareness to the discrimination faced by marginalized groups in the USA.

Then, the 2016 presidential election happened. Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims experienced an increase in hate crimes and rhetoric during the election at levels similar to those that followed the 2001 attacks.

She began to think that the world she was going to leave her young son would be much more dangerous than the one she inherited. Kaur wrestled with those feelings in a sermon she preached during an interfaith service at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, in December 2016.

She sought to approach these issues from the lens of a feminist and a woman of color, comparing the work of those fighting against white supremacy and hate to the struggles of a mother in labor. A video of her sermon went viral online last year.

In a Ted Talk released on February 9, Kaur outlined three ways that she believes “revolutionary love” can be put into action. First, she advised, love others by seeing no other human beings as strangers.

Second, love opponents by tending to their wounds, or in other words, looking for what has hurt them. Lastly, she said it was important to “love ourselves” and seek out joy in times of darkness.

“If we can cultivate love in the directions that we’re missing, not just toward others but also to our opponents and toward ourselves as well, then we can last,” she said. “Not only just outlast this administration, then we can start to imagine birthing a different future for our children.”

The Times of India – Radical Sikh groups hope to meet Trudeau during his Amritsar visit

Yudhvir Rana

Amritsar-Panjab-India, 09 February 2018. Sikh radical groups hope to be able to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his India visit from February 17 to 23. This comes in the backdrop of Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh expressing reservations in meeting some of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers for their alleged leaning towards Khalistan.

While welcoming the visit of the Canadian PM, Jarnail Singh Sakhira, general secretary of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), a pro-Khalistan group, said they would give a memorandum to Trudeau reminding him of Sikhs’ genocide in India.

While stating that Khalistan was very much on the party’s agenda, he said they had no plans to raise separatist slogans during Trudeau’s visit.

On his state visit to India, Trudeau is scheduled to visit Amritsar, Agra, New Delhi, Ahmadabad, and Mumabi. SAD (Amritsar) leaders and workers had raised slogans in praise of Khalistan during Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan’s Amritsar visit last year. However, even Sajjan had not met them.

Party’s office secretary Harbir Singh Sandhu said, “We have a peaceful programme to welcome Trudeau and meet him but if we are stopped from meeting him then we will see.”

Amarinder had refused to meet Sajjan during his visit in April 2017, accusing him of being a Khalistani sympathizer.

Canada is among other countries including the UK and the US where radical Sikh groups are still pursuing the Khalistan agenda by not only trying to provoke the Sikh youths in India but also instigating the gangsters to fight for the “cause of Panth”.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, legal adviser of Sikhs For Justice, in an e-mail message, said that they had written to Trudeau to defend Canadian Sikhs’ freedom of expression on Khalistan during his visit to India.

“Mr Prime Minister, since you are about to visit India, we are writing to apprise you about the pressing concerns of the Canadian Sikhs with regard to India’s policy of denying Sikhs’ rights to self-determination; labeling Sikh separatists as terrorists and policy of using torture as tool to suppress dissenting political opinion,” reads his letter. – 100 days of arrest: activists to raise awareness of Jagtar Singh Johal’s continued detention

Sikh24 Editors

London-UK, 3 February 2018. The detention of 30-year-old Scottish activist Jagtar Singh Johal continues, without charge, and has reached more than 90 days in custody. He was abducted by the Punjab police on 4 November 2017, without any charges.

As the Punjab Police continually ask for extensions, the Indian judges have granted repeated remands, with Jagtar appearing in court more than 20 times since his abduction.

To this day, Jagtar continues to be shifted back and forth between NIA and judicial custody. Despite the confirmation of torture taking place during the first few days of his incarceration, he has been denied the right to an independent medical examination as well as private meetings with the British High Commission.

Jagtar’s detainment will reach 100 days in mid-February. To help raise awareness, a Twitter event has been organized on Monday 12 February, 2018, with coordinated times in UK (8pm), USA (3pm EST) and Canada (3pm EST).

Please share this event with your local sangat at Gurdwara, community, school, friends and family.

For the latest updates, please follow this campaign on all social media:

Twitter: @FreeJaggiNow

Facebook: Free Jaggi Now

Instagram: freejagginow