In a major disappointment to India, Canada has modified the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada and removed the mention of Sikh extremism from the report. Giving in to the pressure from the Sikh community in Canada, the Canadian government removed the reference to the Sikh religion and changed it to “extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India”. The report which was earlier released in December last year had mentioned the Sikh extremism as a threat to Canada.
Indian officials have termed the updated report as a “full retreat” by the country. The updated report was published on April 12 hours before the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau was to take part along with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a Baisakhi parade organised by Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver.
In the 2018 report, the terminology Sikh (Khalistani) terrorism was used for the first time and it was referred to as a “concern”. The had listed two terrorist organisations in the 2018 report namely, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF). The BKI was said to be involved in armed attacks, assassinations and bombings and has members outside of India in Pakistan, North America, Europe and Scandinavia. And the ISYF, an international branch of the All India Sikh Students’ Federation (AISSF) aimed to promote Sikh philosophy and establish an independent Sikh nation of Khalistan.
In the updated version of the report, a note has been added which says, “The Government’s communication of threats must be clear, concise, and cannot be perceived as maligning any groups. As we continue this review, it is apparent that in outlining a threat, it must be clearly linked to an ideology rather than a community. The Government will carefully select terminology that focuses on the intent or ideology. For example, as a first step, the Government will use the term: Extremists who support violent means to establish an independent state within India; rather than terminology that unintentionally impugns an entire religion.” The note claims that the government of Canada does not wish to impugn an entire religion but on the contrary, the list makes clear reference to Shia and Sunni Islamist Extremism.
According to reports, the report has been updated following the threat by the Sikh community to the Liberal Party about facing dire consequences in the elections. Officials from both countries said that political parties want to impress the influential Indian and Sikh communities in the country. Some of the officials, on the condition of anonymity, tracing the problem to several Indian-origin Ministers in Canada, told that counter-terror and security cooperation is robust at the level of officials but there is a gap in the higher level of political leadership. “This is why we are seeing this dichotomy, of having cooperation at the level of officials that is not seen at the higher levels,” an official said.
The decision of the Canadian government to remove any reference to Sikh extremism has been hailed by those who have been protesting against it. One such individual Sukhminder Singh Hansra, who is pro-Khalistan and in the head of a chapter of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar)said thanking the Canadian Sikh community for raising voice, “As a result, the government of Canada realised their mistake and eliminated the words ‘Sikh (Khalistani)’. Though I express satisfaction over the change, concern remains under what circumstances did the Trudeau government include these defamatory, derogatory and hurtful words in the report…as they do not reflect Canadian values”.