Canada party leader in Sikh separatists support row

BACKLASH: Jagmeet Singh in Ottawa, Ontario
BACKLASH: Jagmeet Singh in Ottawa, Ontario

THE leader of Canada’s third party in parliament, who will challenge prime minister Justin Trudeau in elections next year, faced a backlash last Thursday (15) over his affilia­tions with Sikh separatists.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, was a keynote speaker at a rally in San Francisco in 2015 for an independent Sikh home­land sought to be carved out of In­dia, known as Khalistan, Canadian media reported.

Behind him on stage was a large poster of Jarnail Singh Bhindran­wale, the leader of an armed extrem­ist group who died in a shootout with Indian forces.

In his speech, translated from Punjabi for the media, Singh accused India of “genocide” against Sikhs in the Golden Temple assault.

Media also reported Singh’s at­tendance at an event in 2016 organ­ised by the British-based National Sikh Youth Federation, which advo­cates for an independent Khalistan.

Singh has said he does not con­done terrorism or acts of violence.

“Terrorism can never be seen as a way to advance the cause of any one group. It only leads to suffering, pain and death,” he said in a statement.

In February, Singh defended Sikh Liberal government ministers who were photographed with a Canadian man convicted of attempting to as­sassinate a visiting Indian official in 1986 in retaliation for the Golden Temple assault.

“I reject the baseless attacks against Canadian cabinet ministers, and we should be wary of any inter­national interference in our political affairs, especially when it’s targeted at minorities such as members of the Sikh community,” he said.

“The Indian government has a troubling record of conflating hu­man rights advocacy with extrem­ism for their own political benefit.”

The photograph in question was taken at a Mumbai mixer. An invita­tion to dinner in New Delhi with Trudeau, which was later rescinded, caused embarrassment for the Canadian prime minister during his re­cent trip to India – which was already dogged by suspicions that Canada was soft on Sikh separatists.