Conservative Minister John Baird has attempted to clarify his position in regards to comments he made involving the rise of Sikh terrorist groups in Canada.
In his letter to the “community” (which was not published on his website or any other media outlets) [Baird] writes that he wants to “correct the record”.
I want to make absolutely clear that at no point during my visit to India did I make generalized assertions about any community in Canada, including but not limited to Canadian Sikhs.
He goes on to further claim that
…in any discussion of terrorism and violent extremism with the Indian government, I very deliberately distinguished between communites who have a legitmate, democractic right to pursue political causes and those small groups of radicals who may, regrettably, embrance violence or choose criminal activity to pursue their alleged goals.
His comments though, do not address the crux of the highly problematic statements made to Indian media.
In an analysis of two videos of Minister Baird’s comments in India that have surfaced, it appears as though Baird’s letter is filled with contradictions.
He appears to conveniently hide behind a series of allegations against Sikh Canadians in which he suggests the alleged existence of:
- Sikh radicals and extremists in Canada;
- Active extremist events by Sikhs;
- Hate speech by Sikhs;
- And his offer to allow India to help put more groups on the terrorist watch list
This all appears to be without a guarantee of evidence to substantiate such claims that each of the aforementioned really does exist.
For example, in an interview with IBN Minister Baird was asked:
…You and Mr. Krishma also discussed the issue of terror. India is particular worried about what they see is a reemergence of Sikh terrorist groups some of whom have links there in Canada. Is there something specifically that Canada has been able to share as well? Is this something you are aware of?
His response to the allegations that there is a reemergence of Sikh terrorist groups in Canada was:
Listen, Minister Krishna was concerned. We later met with the minister of home affairs. If India is concerned about what’s going on in Canada we’re concerned
Minister Baird openly states that If India is concerned about “what’s going on in Canada”, in this case in regards to a reemergence of Sikh terrorist groups in Canada, then, “we’re concerned” – Canada is concerned. He does not refute the interviewer and state that there is no empirical data or evidence to substantiate a rise in “Sikh terrorist groups”. He does not propose an investigation or ask for data which India is referring to when making this allegation on the “reemergence”. Instead Minister Baird states that India’s “concerns”- and not the domestic evidence of Canadian agencies – is enough to prove a reemergence of Sikh terrorist groups in Canada.
Unfortunately, the contradictions and allegations do not end here. When viewing more video footage Minister Baird makes even more troubling comments at a joint press conference held in India. Here again, Minister Baird is asked one particular disparaging question towards the Sikh community in Canada.
He is asked by a journalist from NewsX:
My question is for Minister Baird. In your opening remarks sir you made remarks of counter terrorism, but there have been reports of Sikh militants engaging openly in anti-India activity in Canada about them indulging in hate speeches and organizing function where Canadian politicians are also present. How would you address the impression that there is certain permissiveness in Canada towards anti India activity.
Here the journalist alleges there are active Sikh militants in Canada who regularly hold hates speeches attended by Canadian politicians. This question openly disparages the Sikh community – it alleges that there are currently active Sikhs groups in Canada engaging in terrorist activity.
In a post 9/11 world this smear of the Sikh community is highly problematic. Once again, instead of asking for proof of such militant actitivity, or refuting the existence of active Sikh militant groups in Canada – especially in light of the lack of any evidence to substantiate such outlandish claims, Minister Baird once against agrees with the allegations and vows to work against such groups.
In response Minister Baird states:
Listen, the Minister had made a very good intervention in our meetings office. I know that he and Prime Minister Singh have raised this in the past. Our government will do everything it can possibly do under the law to combat radical extremism by such groups in Canada. We have going back to 2003 listed groups under criminal code as terrorist organization.
He further goes on to make a very dangerous claim that:
I have invited the Minister if he has any counsel or is there additional groups that we could list. And certainly we’ve agreed we got to do more to tackle this challenge. We are completely on the same page as the government of India, that It is completely unacceptable. From time to time there are representative not at the senior politically level who find themselves at one of these events not necessarily knowing the radical nature or extremist nature of these militant groups and when its brought to our attention we discover it we tackle it aggressively.
In his response Minister Baird again alleges the existence of radical, extremist Sikh militant groups in Canada and that these groups are active; he makes a profound allegation against Sikh Canadians when stating that such groups hold events in which politicians attend. Minister Baird does not clarify which groups these are, which politicians attended and which hate speech laws were broken. Minister Baird appears to engage in a false accusation, that lacks empirical proof.
It is precisely these comments that fuel a negative perception onto the Sikh community and further marginalizes an already vulnerable, visible and racialized minority group in Canada.
Minister Baird’s comments could potentially fuel the flames of hate and intolerance towards the Sikh community. By accepting and agreeing in the existence of Sikh militancy in Canada, alleging there are militant events, hate speech and laws broken – Minister Baird has an obligation to identify what qualifies as “militant events” and “hate speech”, and where such events are taking place with the presence of politicians. Despite the lack of any empirical proof substantiating these claims and a real plan to engage the community in cooperative dialogue, Minister Baird adds to the enivroment of hostility, violence, and racism that negatively impacts memembers of the Sikh community daily.
Further, in an article published in the Hindustan Times (September 20, 2012), it suggests Minister Baird is attempting to revive the memory of Khalistan for political gains. Specifically, it suggests that Baird and India are attempting to blur the lines between groups working for Genocide recognition and peacefully engaging in discourse on human rights and self-determination in a legitimate fashion with the unsubstantiated existence of violent groups, he claims exist in Canada.