Former Canadian PM’s remarks on Khalistani movement draw ire from North American Sikh leaders
Former Canadian prime minister Stephen 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 there.
In Toronto last week for Canada-India Foundation’s Global Indian of the Year Award, Harper said his government had kept Khalistanis at an arm’s length and had denounced those who brought such “battles of the past” to Canada.
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,” Sikhminder Singh Hansra, a senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar (Canada East), said.
Manveer Singh, a senior leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Amritsar, from
East Quebec, said it was rare for a Canadian politician to “flip flop” like this on Canadian values.
“In 2012, Harper had told the Indian press that violence and terrorism should not be confused with the Rights of Canadians to hold and promote their political views,” Manveer Singh said, and added that Harper was rubbing salt into the wounds of Sikhs.
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.
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.
Amarjit Singh Maan, spokesman of the Ontario Gurdwara Committees, said it were for the Canadian public to judge the Sikhs, not an individual like Harper.
Hansra and Maan both said all three major Canadian political parties should make their stands 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.