Newspaper article The Canadian Press

On Eve of Trudeau Trip to India, Sajjan, Sohi Dismiss Claims of Sikh Nationalism

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

On Eve of Trudeau Trip to India, Sajjan, Sohi Dismiss Claims of Sikh Nationalism

Article excerpt

Sajjan, Sohi reject Indian magazine claims


OTTAWA - Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan calls it "ridiculous" and "offensive" that a magazine in India is accusing Canada of being complicit in a rise in Sikh terrorism.

Sajjan and fellow Sikh minister Amarjit Sohi are making it clear they neither sympathize with nor espouse the Sikh nationalist movement, which is bent on creating a separate country called Khalistan within India's Punjab region.

The latest edition of Outlook India features a photo of Trudeau and a headline on the cover that reads, "Khalistan-II: Made in Canada."

Inside, a number of articles describe alleged connections between Canada and the movement, accuse Sikh Canadians of exploiting the country's political system and blame free speech for allowing fundamentalist language to flourish.

Sohi, who is infrastructure minister and represents an Edmonton riding, says he does not sympathize with the cause, nor does he hear much talk about it in the Sikh community.

Sajjan, meanwhile, says the accusation is "ridiculous" and says Canada is being "sucked into" internal Indian politics.

"I've been a police officer, I've served my country and any allegations like that is absolutely ridiculous and I find it extremely offensive as well," Sajjan said following a caucus meeting Wednesday.

Some 16 MPs of Sikh origin were elected in 2015, says the magazine, which also blames Canada's allowance for free speech about human rights for giving "free reign" to more fundamentalist language that has led to the "radical capture of key gurdwaras."

The subhead on the cover reads: "Sikh religious successionism threatening the Indian Constitution assumes proportions of official policy status in Ottawa as Punjab Police books four Canadian residents for gun-running and terror-funding."

The issue comes just as India prepares to welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his first state visit later this month.

The goal of the trip is to focus on trade and cultural ties, but a successful visit would surely be a re-election boon for Trudeau, who already enjoys a high degree of popularity among Canada's 1.2 million Indo-Canadians.

Trudeau seems to have a friendly relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- the two have met on the sidelines of almost every international meeting they attended in the last two years, including just last month at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

But some political forces in India are less enthusiastic.

The articles accuse the Canadian government of allowing Sikh separatist movements to flourish and list four Canadians Indian authorities are said to want for allegedly supply weapons and funding terrorism in India. …

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