Tribune News Service
Toronto, March 2
The opposition Conservative Party (CP) in Canada has decided to drop its motion in the House of Commons that many Sikhs in the country feared would have effectively labelled the community as “terrorists” looking to divide India.
The now dumped February 27 motion was from two Conservatives, Erin O’ Toole (Durham) and Ms Bergen (Portage-Lisgar).
The motion read: That the House (a) value the contributions of Canadian Sikhs and Canadians of Indian origin in our national life; (b) condemn in the strongest terms all forms of terrorism, including Khalistani extremism and the glorification of any individuals who have committed acts of violence to advance the cause of Khalistani state in India; and (c) stand with a united India.
As the community got a whiff of the proposed motion, several Sikh organisations -- including the Canadian Sikh Association, the World Sikh Organisation of Canada, and the management of North America’s largest gurdwara, Ontario Khalsa Durbar (widely known as ‘Dixie Gurdwara) – set up an aggressive night-long community movement against the Conservative motion on Wednesday.
They also demanded the CP leadership apologise for having “dared” to propose such an “outrageous motion” aimed at branding Sikhs as “terrorists” in a country where the world’s largest Sikh diaspora was settled “in a very peaceful way”.
Apparently bowing to the pressure, the Conservative Party announced around 7.30 am on Thursday that it was not going ahead with the motion.
However, O’Toole said the party had decided not to go ahead for now as “the story is still evolving”, and that “we haven’t pulled it (motion notice)…. We are still looking at the right time to do it,” adding his party was not making an effort to mount an attack on any group.
Sukhpal Tutt, Chair and spokesman for the Canadian Sikh Association, expressed his gratitude to the Tories for their decision to back down from the controversial motion. In a communiqué to Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, Gurpreet Singh Bal, president of the Ontario Khalsa Durbar, Dixie Road, Mississauga, said he strongly objected to the O’Toole motion, which was to be debated on Thursday.
“As North America’s largest gurdwara, we strongly denounce this motion, which unfairly targets the Sikh community and the Sikh community only, effectively labelling the entire community as extremists and terrorists,” he said.
He said even though the motion acknowledged the contribution of Canadian Sikhs in its opening section, the next two sections clearly showed the intent of the presenter (O’ Toole) and its “supporters/ endorsers” (Conservative Party of Canada). “We do not condone violent extremism and terror in any shape or form. There has not been any Khalistan-related violence for the past 20-plus years in Canada —the community has moved on — and this motion is seen as an attempt to marginalise Sikhs in Canada…” Bal said.
The Ontario Khalsa Durbar management further contended the “motion does not highlight the actual real threat to a united India and a secular Indian state -- the rise of extremist Hindutava and RSS movement, which has been ‘terrorising’ minorities in the country.”
In its campaign against the motion, the World Sikh Organisation of Canada urged the Sikhs to call and leave voicemails at the offices of Andrew Scheer and Erion O’Toole. “Please communicate to them, if the Conservative Party carry through and bring this motion forward, then they will lose support from the Sikh community and our gurdwaras. The Sikh community will not forget this,” said a widely circulated Whatsapp message.
Conservative spokesman Jake Enwright, however, did not comment on the reason behind the dropping of the motion. He, however, was quoted as saying that the rationale for the motion was that they believed in a united India. “We think it is important that the House states that.”