Trudeau celebrates Vaisakhi in B.C. after feds remove ‘Sikh extremism’ from terrorism report

Friday evening, hours before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to visit one of the biggest Sikh temples in Canada, his government agreed to change the language in a report on terror to no longer explicitly mention Sikh extremism.

The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada released in December drew ire from Canada’s Sikh community for talking about Sikh extremism for the first time as one of the top five extremist threats in Canada.

Although the objections were largely about the inclusion of Sikhs at all, because of the report’s lack of evidence to back it up, Goodale said he would at least ask for a review of the language the report used, because entire religions should never be equated with terrorism.

On April 7, Goodale issued a statement saying the 2018 report would be left as it was but future reports would have to speak to the ideologies or intentions of extremists, not their religions.

Instead of “Sikh extremism” future reports would, if it was appropriate, discuss threats posed by “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India.”

That changed late Friday, just hours before Trudeau was to join Vancouver MP and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to visit the Khalsa Diwan Society’s Ross Street Gurdwara in Vancouver and march in the city’s Vaisakhi parade.

“The report has been updated to reflect this terminology, and it will be used in future public documents,” a statement from the department reads.

Balpreet Singh, the lawyer for the World Sikh Organization in Canada, said the original report was “deeply hurtful and insensitive” and welcomed the government’s decision to change it as an “acknowledgment there was a mistake that was made.”

But he said the change took too long and required too much effort from the community.

READ MORE: No flood of extremist returnees to Canada expected, federal report says

READ MORE: World Sikh Organization demands Canada prove Sikh extremism is a threat

Singh noted, however, the report still refers to extremism in both Sunni and Shia Islam, which he says undermines the government’s commitment to be more careful about not maligning entire religions.

Singh is also still concerned that the government is listing extremist elements advocating violence for Khalistan without any evidence.

“Prove it or remove it,” said Singh.

He said whether this helps the Liberals mend fences with Sikh voters is not for him to say.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pauses and bows his head before speaking at the Khalsa Diwan Society Sikh Temple during Vaisakhi celebrations, in Vancouver on Saturday April 13, 2019. Vaisakhi is a significant holiday on the Sikh calendar, commemorating the establishment of the Khalsa in 1699 and marking the beginning of the Punjabi harvest year. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

With 16 Sikhs elected as Liberal MPs in 2015, and four in Trudeau’s cabinet, the connection between the party and the then-new government was strong. It cracked last year after Trudeau’s troubled trip to India, where he signed an agreement to co-operate with the Indian government to fight terror threats, including from Sikh extremist groups Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Association.

Singh said some believe Trudeau only signed the agreement with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu, to try to salvage the trip. It had gone off the rails when word got out that Canada had invited, to two receptions, a Canadian man named Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted in 1986 of attempting to murder an Indian politician who was visiting Vancouver Island.

The fractures deepened in the fall when the report came out, with some still believing it showed influence from the Indian government, which has been critical of any push for an independent Khalistan, peaceful or not.

British Columbia Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, who was among those who spoke out against the report last fall, said Friday he was glad the government had admitted a mistake and corrected it. Sarai drew headlines during the trip for being the MP whose office invited Atwal to the India receptions, invitations the government said were issued without knowledge of Atwal’s criminal past.

Sarai said Friday he believes Trudeau will be warmly welcomed in Vancouver by the Sikh community Saturday.

The House of Commons public-safety committee unanimously agreed this week to a motion from NDP MP Matthew Dube to ask Goodale to come to the committee to discuss the report.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

How to judge the sand sculptures like a pro at the 2019 Parksville Beach Festival

World-class arbiter gives insight on how to choose a winner

Developers go back to drawing board after high-rise application deferred by Parksville council

IAG Developments has proposed a multi-building development on city’s waterfront

Parksville man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Nick Major, 21, was a taekwondo instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

WATCH: Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first extended steps in nearly three decades

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

City of Parksville warns of utility-payment phone scam

City says phone scammers are impersonating city staff demanding past-due cash

WATCH: Parksville Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first extended steps in nearly three decades

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Chinook retention begins on North Island, but amid new size limit

DFO calls measures ‘difficult but necessary’ following rockslide on Fraser River

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Injured humpback returns to waters near Comox a year later

Photographer spotted Ocular near Comox again and noticed the whale has been healing

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

Most Read