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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vancouver Canucks and Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen have agreed to a two-year deal with an average annual salary of $2.55 million. (@Canucks Twitter photo)
Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks agree to two-year deal

Two sides avoid arbitration, Virtanen will receive average annual salary of $2.55 million

Abbotsford courthouse
Man sentenced to 7 years for sexual abuse of 2 young girls in Abbotsford

Sisters assaulted while mom was asleep or away from the home

Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
MISSING: Mission RCMP request assistance in search for Joseph Pierce

Pierce last seen in Abbotsford on Oct. 6, may be headed to Alberta

Someone needs a manicure? The She Devil pursues Jvck Wilde in a cinematic music video about struggling with mental illness. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hip-hop artist Jvck Wilde produces She Devil music video

Dark, chilling and very cinematic, Wilde produces a gripping video on a tight budget

John Horgan meets with candidates Pam Alexis and Preet Rai and local citizens in Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon. (Submitted)
NDP Leader John Horgan campaigns in Abbotsford with local candidates

Horgan meets with hopefuls Pam Alexis and Preet Rai on Wednesday afternoon

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Swimco announced recently it is shutting all of its stores in Canada, including in Langley. (Swimco website)
Canadian-owned swimsuit chain bankrupt

Swimco had been in creditor protection for several months

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Most Read