Photo: Facebook (Canada-India Foundation)
By: Surjit Singh Flora
A recent speech by former Prime Minister has caused a local flap in local Canadian and around the global Sikh community.
Stephen Harper was honoured with the Canada-India Foundation 2019 gloval Indian award last week during an award ceremony held at Pearson Convention Center.
In his acceptance speech, Harper, who was defeated in the 2015 federal election, emphasizing that his government refuses any sort of relationship with forces that sought to bring the battles of the past to Canada and to divide the “great country that is modern India”.
The former PM also said his government had kept Khalistanis at an arm’s length and had denounced those who brought such “battles of the past” to Canada.
Harper’s words of caution to his successor Justin Trudeau against allowing the Khalistani movement to operate on the Canadian soil appears to have rankled some Sikh leaders here in Canada and around the global, who said his speech went against the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedom act.
His remarks appeared to have stung some Sikhs, who said his speech went against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom Act.
“Also, his remarks are a great insult to Canadian values,” Sukhminder Singh Hansra, a senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar Canada East, said.
Hansra also took a dig at Harper’s statement that his Conservative Party looked forward to an economic partnership with Prime Minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party saying he was “neither a Conservative Party spokesman and nor he is a spokesman for the BJP”.
The statement, he said, put Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer in a tight spot, especially given BJP’s ideology.
“Can the Conservative Party of Canada go form an alliance with a ‘notorious’ political outfit like the BJP?” Hansra said.
Hansra’s son, Harpreet Singh Hansra also said he was deeply saddened by the use of wording in this speech, as worded in a recent social media post.
In his last trip to India as PM he took the Indian Government to task and upheld Sikhs Canadians right to freedom of speech and now has taken a full 360-degree turn. He further made a direct connection to the partnership between the Conservative party and the BJP.
A Senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar, from East Quebec, Manveer Singh said, it was rare for a Canadian politician to “flip flop” like this on Canadian values.
“In 2012, Harper had told the media that violence and terrorism should not be confused with the Rights of Canadians to hold and promote their political views, with his new U- turn, he just rubbed salt into the wounds of Sikhs.
Harper’s statements came after Modi’s government swept into office for the second time in May with a bigger mandate than they won in 2014.
He said that violence had given way to a more “peaceful” Khalistani movement over the past few years and said there was no need for Canadian politicians to be concerned.
Hansra and Maan both said all three major Canadian political parties should make their stance over Khalistan clear.
Condemning Harper’s remarks, Himmat Singh, coordinator of the Sikh Coordination Committee (East Coast), USA, said the statements hurt Sikhs, who made a great contribution to North America.
In Canada, the decades-long push for Khalistan lost much of its potency when a “politics of grievance” was adopted in 1994.
While Trudeau’s 2018 visit to the Golden Temple angered many Conservatives, CBC Reporter Arshy Mann claims today’s movement consists of peaceful protesters advocating for their self-determination.
While true, that doesn’t change the fact, Trudeau misappropriated his time during a business trip to India, Sikh separatism has become irrelevant to most within the community.
Following Jagmeet Singh ‘s interview with Terry Milewski, his failure to denounce the architect of the Air India Bombing left Canadians uncertain on how to broach the legitimate claims to Sikh separatism.
Singh “supported labelling the terrible 1984 riots in Delhi as a genocide of the Sikhs,” however, he danced around the subsequent question.
When asked if “some Canadian Sikhs go too far in honouring Talwinder Singh Parmar, as a ‘martyr’ of the Sikh Nation.” he refused.