Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead. The 45-year-old was killed on June 19th as he was exiting the Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, in British Columbia’s Vancouver. Mr Nijjar was an ardent advocate of Khalistan, a separate Sikh state in India, and thus viewed as an extremist. He was wanted by India for alleged terrorist conspiracies and crimes. Upset, Sikh organisations in Canada decried Mr Nijjar’s killing as ‘assassination in targeted shooting’.

A fortnight earlier, on June 4th, Khalistan supporters took out a 5km parade in Brampton, the Greater Toronto city of Canada. The march was to mark the 39th anniversary of Operation Bluestar, Indian army’s offensive to flush out Sikh extremists holed up in the Golden Temple, the Holiest of Holies among Sikh temples. Later, as revenge killing, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her own Sikh security guards. The Brampton parade’s highlight was a bloody tableau ‘celebrating’ that retributive killing. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/indira-gandhi- assassination-parade-float-canada-brampton-khalistan- supporters-operation-bluestar-101686218354736.html

A Silent Supporter of Separatists

These two events appear to be unconnected. Yet, they are clear signs of Sikh separatists getting hyperactive in Canada. What should cause a serious headache for prime minister Justin Trudeau is that most vocal votaries of Khalistan are based on his nation’s soil. As the Punjabi diaspora in Canada, predominantly comprising Sikhs, is quite large, Mr Trudeau should view this more as a bane. But, he doesn’t. As he backs Sikh separatists, more by his deliberate silence on their bloody operations, the extremists are getting busier and more active now. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/wor ld-news/why-justin-trudeau-cannot-target-khalistani-separatists- in-canada/articleshow/99123237.cms?from=mdr

Nothing odd about this. Canada and Mr Trudeau are always known for their active and passive backing of Sikh separatists. Back in 2002, a Canadian weekly had exhorted its readers to ‘honour the martyrs who killed the sinner’. Yet, the publication survived on liberal doses of advertisements from the Canadian government, only to become the nation’s prominent daily later. Despite warnings from right-thinking well-wishers, Canada continues to be a silent supporter of the Sikh separatists’ cause.

Video Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Fertile Ground for Extremists

The 2002 episode is not an isolated one. In the Sikh stranglehold of Brampton, a pro-separatist outfit called Sikhs for Justice held a ‘referendum’ on Khalistan in October 2021. Over 100,000 Sikhs turned up in support. Despite loud condemnations from India, Canada did little to stop such separatist expressions and actions that are viewed as anti-national in India. Canada did not even designate Sikhs for Justice as a terrorist outfit, despite India’s request. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/khalistan-referendum- in-canada-all-you-need-to-know-11663648761103.html

This deliberate inaction is making Canada a fertile ground for Sikh extremists to thrive. Canada’s lax attitude was despite India’s rebukes. Such rebukes go back as far as 1982. Pierre Trudeau was at the helm then as prime minister. The reins are now with his son and prime minister Justin Trudeau, and the attitude is intact. This begs a critical question: why do Canada and its politicians have a soft corner for Sikh separatists operating on their soil?

The Romance is Visible

For sure, Mr Trudeau views the 800-thousand-strong Sikhs in Canada as a potential vote bank. He knows these Indians can vote for him, if he stays mum over their activities in Canada. Which politician would risk losing en bloc the votes of a community that is Canada’s fastest-growing, accounting for 2.1 per cent of its population? This number makes Canada home for the largest number of Sikhs in the world, only after India.

The romance between Mr Trudeau and the immigrant Indian Sikhs is visible even in government postings. Sikhs can be seen today at all levels of Canadian government and politics. Canada has now a Sikh heading the left-aligned New Democratic Party, a major political formation. From 1897, when the merchant vessel RMS Empress of India anchored in Vancouver with the initial lot of Sikhs, to the controversial Khalistan Parade of June 2023, the Canadian Sikhs have come a long way. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60837941

The Laws are So Lax

It has been a 125-year-old connection for the Canadian Sikhs. More than five Sikh generations have lived and died in Canada. Not surprising that the Khalistan movement had its beginnings in Canada in 1980. The 1985 Air India bombing near Ireland drove home the point that the Sikh separatist movement was getting too big and too dangerous in Canada to be ignored. Canada has been a country of warmth and friendship for Khalistani separatists since then.

Incidents like the Air India bombing made Canada a global hub for the separatist Khalistan movement of the Sikhs. For the Khalistan movement that was aspiring to go global, money and manpower were needed. Both were found easily in Canada. Moreover, the Canadian laws are so lax that it is hard to prosecute anyone charged with crime elsewhere. This is why the Sikh separatists, who use terrorism as tools, found their ideal haven in Canada. https://www.reuters.com/article/canada- security-watchdog-idUSL2N0JB0UO20131126

The Dhaliwal Connection

As Mr Trudeau continues to be mum on Sikh separatists in Canada, it is clear he is using the Sikhs as a bankable vote bank. It is this political compulsion that drives Mr Trudeau to even take part in events organised by separatist-supporters like The Sikhs for Justice. Such participation will ensure the separtists’ tribe continues to grow in Canada. Worse, in the 2019 federal elections, Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party was 13 short of majority. Without batting an eyelid, he sought support from the New Democratic Party, which is led by Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal, a Sikh separatist.

With such political backing from Mr Trudeau, the New Democratic Party continues to flourish. The party is ruling British Columbia today. The province has the highest percentage of Sikhs in Canada. Moreover, the Dhaliwal party is the principal opposition party in the Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan provinces. It is politicians like Mr Dhaliwal who are responsible for making Mr Trudeau turn a blind eye to shows of Khalistan separatism in Canada. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india- news/a-mighty-minority-how-sikhs-rose-to-their-present- political-prominence-in-canada/story- jzTn5IUyOAwPpcRuCedfKI.html

Drug Cartels Shift their Base

Worried, the Indian government wasted no time to exert pressure on Canada to sign an extradition treaty. The treaty was signed and sealed in February 1987. Yet, not much has moved since then and Sikh separatists continue to have a field day in Canada. As long as Canadian laws remain lax and riddled with loopholes, Sikh separatists are sure to have the last laugh. Many killers, including the notorious Goldy Brar, who was responsible for the slaying of the famed Punjabi singer Sidhu Moose Wala, are living comfortably in Canada.

The protection and safety Canada offers Sikh separatists and Khalistan killers have lured members of drug cartels to shift their operational base to Canada. Many Pakistanis are part of these drug cartels, which streamline flow of drugs from Afghanistan, America and Latin America to lucrative markets of India and Europe. Many of these drug cartels, particularly those run by the Pakistanis, are funded by Pakistan’s ISI Inter Services Intelligence. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star- columnists/2023/01/07/the-insidious-grip-of-the-mexican- drug-cartels-have-a-chokehold-on-canada.html

Hate Hardens the Separatists

Thanks to their money and muscle power, the cartels have made deep Canadian inroads. They wield great influence over Canadian law enforcement agencies. In certain quarters, this has fomented hate towards India. This hate has hardened Sikh separatists further. Reason why Canada should realise the Sikh separatist issue on its foreign soil is a double-edged sword. This would not only continue to hurt India, will sear Canada too eventually. Canada needs to remember the adage ‘one who lives by the sword dies by it.’

In Conclusion

The Pakistan story is a good example of this double-edge-sword syndrome. For nearly half a century, Pakistan continued to export terror to rest of the world. Today, the same terror is holding Pakistan to tears and tragedy, shaking its cornerstones. It would not be long before the anti-India Sikh separatists and terrorists get prepared to test their strategies on their Canadian second home. Hope Mr Trudeau learns from Pakistan’s plight.