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Canada: Two Khalistanis, including Bhindranwale’s relative, fail to get rid of ‘terrorist’ tag, federal court upholds them being on ‘no fly list’

Bhagat Singh Brar, son of Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode who is the nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and Brar'sbusiness partner Parvkar Singh Dulai were put on no-fly list for links with Khalistani terror groups

After it was revealed last month that Canada has put several persons on no-fly list two years ago for suspected Khalistan terror links, the federal court of the country has upheld that decision. The court ruled that the no-fly list maintained by the Canadian govt is constitutional, rejecting a plea by two persons that feature in the list.

The plea was submitted by Bhagat Singh Brar, son of Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode who is the nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and Parvkar Singh Dulai, business partner of Brar. The Federal Court said while there were problems with the way the police handled the cases of putting them on the no-fly list, it is reasonable to keep them on the list. Brar and Dulai were put on the no-fly list under the Secure Air Travel Act.

One of the main reasons of putting them on the no-fly list is the fact that Bhagat Singh Brar’s father Lakhbir is the leader of the Khalistsani organisation International Sikh Youth Federation, which is designated as a terrorist organisation in Canada. Apart from Canada, it is also banned in several other countries including India, USA, Australia, EU, Japan etc.

They were put on the no-fly list as they were suspected of being “facilitator of terrorist-related activities”, based on inputs from Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canada’s spy agency. Following it, Brar and Dulai had approached the court challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list and the way it was slapped on them.

The Canadian govt objected to the plea, saying there were reasonable grounds to suspect they would either engage or attempt to engage in a terror act that would threaten air travel, according to the ruling. Accepting the arguments of the government, Justice Simon Noël said that “ensuring safety in air transportation and limiting air travel for terrorist purposes necessarily involves some infringement of mobility rights.” The judge said that while flying to and out of Canada is a necessity and not a privilege, it is necessary to curb such rights to prevent terror attacks and save lives.

While the judge said that lives of the appellants have been affected due to the flying ban and being labelled as terrorist is extremely damaging to one’s reputation, he ruled that the process of no-fly list is constitutional as it is backed by proper procedure. “As part of Canada’s societal commitment, it is a top priority to guarantee that all Canadians live in a safe environment. The threat posed by individuals suspected of travelling abroad to engage in extremist activity is significant and presents difficult challenges to both Canada and its allies,” the court said.

However, the judge said that there should not be problem with domestic air travel, and the ban should only apply to international travel.

While Bhagat Singh Brar and Parvkar Singh Dulai were put on the no-fly list in 2018 itself, it was revealed last month only. Both of them had discovered in 2018 that they were on the no-fly list while attempting to board flights in April and May respectively. Since then, they have been trying to get off the list, by approaching govt agencies and courts. However, the entire matter was kept confidential and even the court proceedings took place in secrecy. Canadian media houses reported the matter only in July 2022, after some redacted versions of the documents were made available during the court hearing.

According to documents obtained by Canadian media house Global News, Brar and Dulai have been called “terrorism facilitators.” According to people who have seen Public Safety Canada reports that were used to place them on the no-fly list, the allegations against them are very serious. Even though only redacted versions of the documents were made available, they show that CSIS has reasonable grounds to believe that they were involved in terror activities in Canada.

Global News quoted from a secret case brief report by CSIS that says, “The service believes that Brar is a Canada-based Khalistani extremist who has been engaged in [redacted] terrorist-related activities, particularly in fundraising in support of terrorist attacks overseas.”

According to the charges against Brar, he is involved in “promoting extremism, including the radicalization of youth, with the aim of achieving Khalistan independence; and attack planning and facilitation, including weapons procurement, to conduct attacks in India.”

The documents also allege that Brar is the leader of the youth wing of ISYF in Canada. He is alleged to have travelled to Pakistan in 2015 to plan a terror attack in India. Intelligence reports say he had indoctrinated two Indian Punjabi youths and had motivated them to carry out terror acts, and he was also in charge of providing arms and ammunitions in India. However, the terror attack plan had failed after the recruits were arrested near the border while retrieving the weapons.

Bhagat Singh Brar had also visited India and imparted theoretical training in handling of weapons including AK-47 rifles, according to the intelligence report. He had also raised fund and sent to his father who is based in Pakistan.

On the other hand, Dulai is suspected to be a facilitator of terrorist-related activities. The CSIS secret documents say that he has shown an ongoing pattern of involvement within the Khalistani extremist milieu.”

However, none of them has been charged yet for the allegations so far, and the only action taken against them is putting them on the no-fly list.

It is interesting to note that Brar and Dulai were put on the no-fly list in Canada in 2018, the same year when the then Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had handed over a list of Khalistani operatives active in Canada to Justin Trudeau. During Trudeau’s India visit in February 2018, Captain Amarinder Singh had given him a list of nine Khalistani terrorists active in Canada, and these nine names included the names of Brar and Dulai.

The list was given to Trudeau in February 2018, and Brar and Dulai found out about it in April and May. During the same India visit of the Canadian PM, India and Canada had agreed on a Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, the objective of which is to facilitate effective cooperation between law enforcement and security agencies and legal and policy practitioners.

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