Trudeau Government Acknowledged 'Sikh Extremism' In 2018 Report, Later Dropped Reference For Political Gains

Nayan Dwivedi

Sep 19, 2023, 02:04 PM | Updated 02:04 PM IST

PM Narendra Modi with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
PM Narendra Modi with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
  • From the inclusion of 'Sikh extremism' in Canada's terror threat report to recent diplomatic tensions, the Khalistan issue continues to influence India-Canada relations.
  • During the recent G20 Summit in New Delhi, the issue of Khalistan took centre stage in discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.

    Prime Minister Modi expressed concerns about what he termed "anti-India activities" conducted by certain "extremist elements" in Canada.

    In response, Prime Minister Trudeau stressed Canada's commitment to the principles of peaceful protest and freedom of expression.

    However, it's worth noting that Trudeau's government has faced pressure from Canadian Sikh groups in the past, urging them to address extremist elements within the Sikh community.

    A significant development in this context was the inclusion of 'Sikh extremism' in the Canadian government's annual "Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada", released in December 2018.

    This marked the first explicit acknowledgment of the issue of 'Sikh extremism' and Khalistan in Canada's annual terror threat assessment.

    This inclusion demonstrated the government's recognition of the potential threat posed by certain extremist elements within the Sikh community.

    The release of the report led to dissatisfaction among Sikh groups, who urged the Canadian government to remove references to Sikh extremism and Khalistan.

    Notably, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the chief of the banned outfit Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and a supporter of Khalistan, accused Trudeau of unfairly labeling Sikhs as "terrorists" and using them solely as a means to fund political campaigns.

    At that time, the annual Khalsa parade in Surrey threatened to prevent any member of the Liberal Party from speaking at their Baisakhi event.

    Additionally, there were 16 Sikh MPs in Trudeau's government, with four serving in his cabinet, including Harjit Sajjan as the Canadian Defence Minister.

    In response to the controversy, Trudeau's government revised the report in April 2019.

    The updated report no longer mentioned Sikh extremism or Khalistan and carefully selected terminology that focused on intent or ideology.

    However, this revision faced objections from the then chief minister of Punjab at that time, Captain Amarinder Singh, who believed it was politically motivated and aimed at gaining support from the Sikh community in Canada.

    Singh warned that this move could strain India-Canada relations and pose a threat to India's national security.

    Fast forward to March 2022, Trudeau's Liberal Party formed an alliance with the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by his political rival Jagmeet Singh.

    In October 2022, the NDP openly supported the Khalistan Referendum on Canadian soil, citing it as a "basic human right of Canadian Sikhs enshrined in local and international laws."

    During the G20 Summit in India, another Khalistani referendum took place in Surrey, Vancouver, in which Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the chief of SFJ, attended and issued threats against top Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

    During a session in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 19 September, Justin Trudeau addressed the issue about the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and alleged India's involvement in the assassination of the Khalistani terrorist.

    Additionally, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly, announced that the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled as a result of the ongoing dispute between the two countries.

    Indian government also retaliated by expelling a high-ranking Canadian diplomat in response to Canada's actions.

    Nayan Dwivedi is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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