Khalistan and Canada The Excelsior 09 Jul 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Khalistan and Canada The Excelsior 09 Jul 2024

          Justin Trudeau claiming India is involved in the killing of Khalistan supporter Hardeep Singh Nijjar, investigation into which is still ongoing, led to deterioration in Indo-Canadian ties. It also highlights the growing space being provided to the movement by his government. Nijjar had entered Canada on a fake passport and was on the country’s no-fly list, implying Ottawa considered him a security threat.  

The reason for Justin Trudeau accusing India, including displaying willingness to damage diplomatic ties, revealed recently by Canadian journalist, Mocha Bezirgan, was that Nijjar was funding Jagmeet Singh, who heads the NDF (New Democratic Front), a party without whose support Justin Trudeau’s government cannot survive.

On the contrary, most Canadians believe Nijjar was killed by rival gangsters in a turf war. To add fuel to fire, the Canadian parliament observed a minute’s silence on Nijjar’s death anniversary, an honour normally accorded only to those who have provided exceptional service to the nation.

In retaliation, the Indian parliament held a similar remembrance for Kanishka victims on the first day of its parliament session, while Indian consulates in Canada laid wreaths in memory of victims of the greatest terrorist act to emerge from Canadian soil.

          The Khalistan movement is conducting another worthless referendum in Calgary, Canada, on 28th July. The reason why Calgary was chosen is because Alberta’s Premier, Danielle Smith, and Calgary’s Mayor, Prabhjot Kaur ‘Jyoti’ Gondek, a Sikh herself, are backers of the movement. Gondek has participated in Khalistan rallies across Canada. 

This referendum is being dedicated to the mastermind of the Kanishka bombing, Talwinder Singh Parmar as also Hardeep Singh Nijjar, two proclaimed terrorists. The Canadian government is permitting the event, largely for political reasons, as it is supported by Khalistan backer, Jagmeet Singh.

           Sikhs from North America are expected to be present. While the event has zero value, other than media coverage, it would only worsen the already deteriorating ties between India and Canada. 

          Canada’s Globe and mail recently released an investigative report mentioning that in August 2021, when NATO forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan, struggling to take back all their citizens and Afghan supporters, Canada’s then defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, directed Canadian forces to evacuate Afghan Sikhs seeking refuge from the Taliban, on priority, ignoring their own Canadian-Afghan citizens and local Afghans who had operated alongside Canadian forces. Evacuation priorities were reversed.

Sajjan’s intent was to act before India, which was employing its network to ensure safe withdrawal of Afghan Sikhs. India was committed to saving those with its roots, stranded in Afghanistan. The end result was that Canadian citizens, private security personnel guarding its embassy and Afghan allies were left behind at the mercy of the Taliban. The release of the report led to calls for Sajjan’s resignation as Minister of Emergency Preparedness, his current appointment, which he ignores, while Trudeau defends him.

          It was reported that Sajjan passed these directions on instructions from the World Sikh Organization (WSO), an organization which propagates Khalistan, and with which he has close ties, his father being an executive board member. It was WSO which propelled him to his current post, sending the message that Canada supports institutions which propagate secessionist activities.

          Adding to problems of Canadian citizens is the growing menace of Sikh gangs (termed as Indo-Canadian gangs), involved in the drug trade. The Canadian RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) mentioned, ‘The number of guns that Indo-Canadian gangsters possess is astounding.’ Killings related to controlling the drug trade is on the rise in Ontario and British Columbia. Nijjar was also likely killed as part of Canada’s gang war.

          Extortion is also increasing amongst the Indo-Canadian community in British Columbia, propagated by local gangs. The deputy leader of the Conservative party, Tim Uppal, tweeted that extortion has risen by 218% in recent years and levels of violence amongst the community have increased manifold. He added that his party introduced a bill against extortion but was voted down by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party and the NDP.  

          The Khalistan movement is backed by gangs involved in violence, drugs and extortion. Violence is visible in pro-Khalistan rallies where Indian flags are torn and burnt, Indian diplomats threatened and diplomatic property destroyed. This is drawing anger from Canadians who are witnessing a deterioration in their society. The silence of the Canadian government displays its tacit support.

Simultaneously, the movement is targeting other Indo-Canadians. Hate speeches and threats are on the rise. Khalistan supporters regularly issue warning to non-Sikhs, including, ‘Leave Canada, go to India.’ Indo-Canadian Member of Parliament, Chandra Arya mentioned, ‘I urge Hindu-Canadians to stay calm but vigilant. Please report any incident of Hindu-phobia to your local law enforcement agencies.’  

          Sikhs are the largest growing community in Canada, forming 2.1% of the populace and its members have permeated into all segments of the government, thereby enhancing their influence and reach. They are also politically active, hence being wooed by main stream political parties. Sikhs, live together in localities in specific regions, resulting in them dominating few constituencies, providing them with political power. Jagmeet Singh’s NDF, with 18 seats, has been a king-maker for the past few years.

Trudeau has been a favourite of the community because his government is pro-immigration and provides easy asylum, especially for pro-Khalistan Sikhs. Further, his government refuses to adhere to Indian requests for repatriating designated terrorists. Since the rift with India over Nijjar, he has gained further support. His presence in anti-India Khalistan rallies, under the pretext of free speech, has provided the movement greater confidence and freedom.

          Since Khalistan does not impact Canada or its allies’, providing support as also turning a blind eye is politically beneficial. All Ottawa has to do is ignore Indian protests.

While realistically Sikhs supporting Khalistan are not the majority (Canada has around 800,000 Sikhs) but the fact remains that the movement, apart from being an embarrassment to the Indian government, also threatens other Indian-Canadians and diplomats. Sadly, due to actions of a few, the entire community is being stereotyped.

It would take years before any future Canadian government can contain the movement and restore normalcy in ties with India. By then possibly Canada would either become the next Pakistan by backing terrorists or provide space for the creation of a Khalistan state on their soil.




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