NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at a press conference as he unveils the NDP’s top priorities ahead of the federal budget on February 13, 2018. Singh says he condemns all acts of terrorism no matter who is committing them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

NDP’s Singh rejects terrorism, preaches ‘love, courage’

Questions swirl after reports he attended rally for violent religious leader three years ago in California

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh issued a blanket condemnation of terrorist acts Wednesday following media reports about his attendance at a California rally three years ago that sang the praises of Sikh separatism and a violent religious leader killed during the 1984 invasion of India’s Golden Temple.

Singh issued a statement in which he condemned all acts of terrorism, regardless of who is responsible, after the Globe and Mail disclosed that he attended and spoke at the 2015 rally in San Francisco, an event billed as a commemoration of Sikhs who died during the bloody 1984 invasion in Amritsar.

Billing himself an advocate for human rights, Singh said while he believes in allowing the Sikh community the opportunity to process the feelings inflicted by the trauma of the 1984 invasion, which he calls a genocide, he does not condone violence as a response.

Many Indian-Canadian families immigrated to Canada in the years following the temple attack, fleeing the tension and anti-Sikh rioting that followed it. Singh said he has dedicated much of his work to helping the community answer how it can “move through pain and trauma in order to reach acceptance so that it can arrive peacefully” at reconciliation.

“I encourage all those facing these tough questions not to fall prey to rage and violence, but rather to embrace your truth and move forward with love and courage,” he wrote.

The statement comes at a time of strained Canada-India relations, in part because of lingering Indian concerns that Canadian governments tolerate Sikh separatism and extremism by not speaking out against it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to India became more of a diplomatic embarrassment than a peace-building exercise, although Trudeau did manage to make some headway, publicly condemning extremism and signing a joint security framework with India to counter terrorism and violent extremism.

The demand that all Sikhs constantly condemn violence in general is not only tiring, it’s offensive, said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization in Canada.

“It’s a little bit awkward for us because there is no violence for us to condemn,” he said.

The only violence people can point to happened decades ago, and it is unfair to continually accuse Sikhs of condoning violence because of the actions of others more than 30 years ago, he continued.

“There are voices in India who call anyone who criticizes the Indian government as a radical or an extremist,” he said. “But in 20-plus years there is no actual examples of violence.”

Balpreet Singh called Trudeau’s recent trip “a massive disaster for the Sikh community” that set the community back decades in Canada.

He said there are many Canadian Sikhs who felt let down by Trudeau on the trip for not defending them against Indian allegations that violence and extremism was coming into India from Canada’s Sikh community.

At one particular news conference during the trip, Trudeau did not answer when asked if he felt there was a Sikh separatist problem in Canada, saying only that Canada would address those issues “wherever they arise.”

A spokeswoman for Trudeau said Wednesday the government believes freedom of speech and expression are “at the core of democracy.”

“These rights are universal,” Eleanore Catenaro said in email. “The prime minister would never equate the Sikh community or any one community with extremism. However, our government’s position is clear — we condemn all forms of terrorism and extremism.”

The Liberals won a number of seats in the last election largely with the support of the Sikh community. There are more than half a dozen seats around Toronto and Vancouver where the Indian community accounts for more than one-third of the population; in two of them, it makes up more than half. The Liberals won them all, and many felt the trip to India was designed — at least in part — as a form of political outreach.

Trudeau spent much of the trip expressing Canada’s official support for a united India and condemning violence in order to quiet allegations within India that Canada supported Sikh separatism and that his cabinet included Sikh separatists.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed concern in the past about Trudeau attending Sikh parades and celebrations alongside floats or events honouring those linked to the 1984 Air India bombing. Some said Modi snubbed Trudeau in India by sending a junior minister to greet him at the airport, ignoring his visit for several days and only meeting him for part of one day near the end of the week-long trip.

Modi appeared warm during that day and offered Trudeau his signature bear hug, but the idea that he was sending Trudeau and Canada a message was rejuvenated last weekend when Modi did go to the airport to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, which is out of step with official Indian protocol.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

What you see …

If you have a recent photo to share email it to editor@trailtimes.ca

Creston-area rail siding, site of 1910 disaster

Place Names: McNeillie Siding, Savalpee Port, Mud Landing, Nelway and more

Smoke Eaters struggles continue heading into tough stretch

Thompson: ” … home games closing out the pre-holiday schedule will showcase some real talent.”

Snowstorm called for the Kootenays

FortisBC advises electric customers to prepare for storm-related outages

Artisan closing doors in January

Letter to the Editor from The Artisan, located in downtown Trail

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Most Read