Ontario Khalsa Darbar Condemns Canadian Sikhs Portrayal In 2018 Public Report On The Terrorism Threat To Canada

Ontario Khalsa Darbar condemned attempts at portraying Canadian Sikhs as extremists.

The addition of “Sikh (Khalistani) Extremism” to the Public Safety Canada’s 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada is offensive to Canadian Sikhs and reflects the Canadian government’s acceptance of Indian allegations against the community.

For the first time, Public Safety Canada’s report on Canada’s terrorist threat environment includes a “Sikh extremism” component. This follows repeated allegations by the Government of India and Indian media of rising extremism amongst Canadian Sikhs.

Rather than defending the reputation of Canadian Sikhs and denying these baseless allegations, it appears that the Canadian government is content to capitulate to Indian demands to crack down on the Sikh activists. The Public Safety Canada 2018 makes no actual references to any current examples of violence or extremism in the Sikh community.

Legitimate activism by Sikhs in Canada such as criticism of India’s human rights record, advocacy for the recognition of the 1984 Sikh Genocide and advocacy for Khalistan have been labelled as extremism by India. This is an attempt to marginalize and silence Canadian Sikhs.

Gurpreet Singh Bal, President of Ontario Khalsa Darbar said, “we are deeply offended by the inclusion of so-called ‘Sikh extremism’ in the 2018 Public Safety Canada Report on The Terrorism Threat to Canada. This move seems clearly motivated by the desire to appease India. We expect our Government to stand up against bullying of our community, not sacrifice the Sikh community’s reputation in order to further its international relations with the Government of India.”

The report goes as follows:

“Canada’s terrorist threat environment remains stable.

The principal terrorist threat to Canada continues to stem from individuals or groups who are inspired by violent Sunni Islamist ideology and terrorist groups, such as Daesh or al-Qaida (AQ). Canada also remains concerned about threats posed by those who harbour right-wing extremist views.

The April 2018 van attack in Toronto is a reminder that violent acts driven by extremists’ views are not exclusively linked to any particular religious, political or cultural ideology.

Furthermore, Shia and Sikh (Khalistani) extremism also remain of concern because while their attacks in Canada have been extremely limited, some Canadians continue to support these extremist groups, including through financing. At the time of publication, Canada’s National Terrorism Threat Level remains at medium, as set in early October 2014 – meaning a violent act of terrorism could occur.

Though Daesh territorial holdings in the Syria-Iraq conflict zone continue to decline, Canada has not seen a related influx in the number of Canadian Extremist Travellers (CET) who have returned to Canada, nor does it expect to.

Owing to several factors (such as a lack of valid travel documents, denying boarding to aircraft destined for Canada, potential fear of arrest upon return, their continued commitment to Daesh or other groups, having been captured while in Syria and Iraq, or because they have died), CET numbers abroad remain stable at approximately 190 individuals with a nexus to Canada, and close to 60 who have returned.

In an effort to project strength and influence to counter its decreasing support and size, Daesh is resorting more frequently to false claims of responsibility for acts of violence, including in Canada.

In June 2018, after Faisal Hussain fired on the busy Toronto neighbourhood of Danforth, Daesh quickly claimed responsibility, despite the total absence of any link between the attack and that group or any other terrorist group.

While globally, terrorist attacks have seen a decline, particularly in the West, ungoverned and permissive environments continue to allow terrorist groups to regroup or develop capabilities. Al-Qaida, Daesh and their affiliates continue to conduct attacks in the Middle East, South-East Asia, South Asia (Afghanistan) and North and West Africa.

The Taliban continues to challenge the authority of the Afghanistan government through terrorist acts, while other groups, such as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM), Ansurul Islam, and al-Shabaab remain active in Africa.

In Canada, and more generally, in the West individuals who claim allegiance or who are inspired by terrorist groups use low-sophistication, low-resource tactics (such as vehicle ramming) to commit violent acts which achieve mass casualties and garner significant publicity and reaction.

These individuals or groups are often inspired online, which is also a venue for recruitment, facilitation, guidance on weapons and/or financing.

The Government of Canada’s approach to countering the threat posed by terrorism also continues to evolve, in line with the nature of the threat.

Regardless, its primary objectives remain the same – to disrupt potential acts from occurring and bringing all perpetrators to justice. Since 2001, 55 individuals have been charged with terrorism offences under the Criminal Code. In each case, measures and tools available to the government are employed in a flexible and versatile whole-of-government approach, which are tailored to each specific individual and situation.

Looking forward, Bill C-59, An Act Respecting National Security MattersNote 1, would further enhance this approach by improving information sharing among security and intelligence partners; amending the Secure Air Travel Act to make it more effective at preventing travel by those intent on engaging in terrorism (while facilitating legitimate travel) and by amending parts of the Criminal Code to, among other things, make terrorism provisions more clear.

Finally, the National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence will outline priority areas aimed at preventing radicalization to violence in Canada, which are shaped by the evolving threat environment.”