If Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, the iconic father of Canada’s current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, were alive today, he might have found himself deeply concerned, if not distressed, by the presence of small Sikh extremist groups within his beloved nation. These groups appear to be tirelessly working towards the separation of India’s Punjab, a province situated some 11,500 kilometers away, with the aim of establishing Khalistan as an independent state. Pierre Trudeau, a charismatic and controversial figure in Canadian politics, played a pivotal role in quelling the Quebec separatist movement of the 1970s and 1980s, cementing his status as one of Canada’s most recognizable political figures, both domestically and internationally. However, it is disheartening to note that Pierre Trudeau did not take decisive action to curb the illegal entry of Khalistani Sikh terrorists into Canada, even after they perpetrated a heinous bombing of an Air India passenger flight in the mid-1980s. This apparent inconsistency seems to have been inherited by Justin Trudeau, as Sikh extremist groups continue to thrive in Canada despite inter-group conflicts, violent incidents, and attacks on non-Sikh Indian residents and students. We must unequivocally condemn all acts of violence and ensure swift investigations. Justin Trudeau’s concern over the June 18 killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent figure in the Khalistan Tiger Force, is understandable. However, his call for India’s official ‘cooperation’ in the investigation raises questions.
Canada has become a perplexing focal point for Sikh separatist groups dreaming of turning Punjab into Khalistan, a stance that remains unconnected to India’s Sikh community of 22 million, known for their valour and strong entrepreneurial spirit. Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak in the 15th century, initially emerged as a protective response to Muslim insurgencies, and India’s Sikh regiment is the country’s most highly decorated infantry regiment. Over 95 percent of India’s Sikh population proudly consider themselves Indians. Punjab, bordering Pakistan and other Indian states, boasts one of India’s most robust state economies, driven by agriculture. The Sikh community’s connection to the Khalistan movement in Canada is entirely unfounded. Hence, Canada’s support for and tolerance of Sikh separatist groups remains inexplicable. The discrepancy between the sluggish investigation into the Air India bombing case in the 1980s and 1990s and the swift inquiry into the Khalistani terrorist murder case today raises questions about the intent behind these actions. While a few individuals were arrested and tried in the Air India bombing case, only one person, Inderjit Singh Reyat, a dual British-Canadian national, was convicted. Reyat pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2003.
Canada hosts more than 770,000 Sikh citizens, forming a formidable political force. The country is also home to nearly 1.4 million individuals of Indian ethnic or cultural origin, constituting about 3.7 percent of the population. A significant portion of this demographic identifies as Sikhs, representing around two percent of Canada’s total population. Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party, a center-left to left-wing party with 25 MPs in the 338-member Canadian Parliament, stands as the fourth-largest political party, closely trailing the Bloc Québécois, which champions Quebec’s sovereignty, social democracy, and regionalism. Canada’s complex relationship with Sikh separatist groups raises concerns about its consistency and intent. As a nation with a strong commitment to the rule of law and international relations, Canada should strive for transparency and fairness in all investigations, ensuring that its actions are grounded in evidence and principles rather than political considerations.