By Joan Delaney
A terrorism expert says Facebook threats directed at Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh come as no surprise because both the nature and number of threats by Sikh extremists is increasing in Canada.
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh was the target of Facebook threats by Sikh extremists. A terrorism expert says extremism is increasing in Canada.
“We are facing a more sophisticated series of groups determined to undermine the institutions of the Government of Canada while advancing their own cause and doing extensive fundraising at the same time,” says Tom Quiggin, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University.
Quiggin, a court expert on terrorism and intelligence sourcing, says that while Sikh extremism died down after the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people, most of them Canadian, it has gained momentum in recent years.
A Facebook group called “Ujjal Dosanjh is a Sikh Traitor” said the former B.C. premier is a “rat in our midst” and threatened to “pierce him with bullets.” One posting urged, “Someone shoot him ASAP.”
The RCMP is investigating.
The threats appeared days after a Sikh parade in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey on April 18 which included a float displaying images of the leaders of banned terrorist organizations-something Dosanjh had criticized.
Controversy around the parade heightened when Dosanjh, an outspoken opponent of Sikh extremism, and provincial MLA Dave Hayer were told by an organizer that if they wanted to attend the event they would have to bring their own security.
The veiled threat sparked outrage and Dosanjh and Hayer-both Sikhs-along with Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts lodged complaints with the RCMP. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Liberal Leader Michael Ignattieff boycotted the event, said to be the largest Vaisikhi celebration outside India.
“The targeting of Mr. Dosanjh is not accidental. Besides being an outspoken individual, he is also a public figure,” Quiggin says.
Dosanjh has been threatened multiple times-always after speaking out against extremism. He was badly beaten in 1985 and has also had his property attacked.
Canadian Sikh journalist Tara Singh Hayer was crippled in a vicious attack and then later murdered in Vancouver in 1997 for speaking out against Sikh radicals.
“Those who organized his murder have never been caught and still walk freely amongst us. They are beyond the reach of the law,” Quiggin says, adding that Canada has not been very effective in curbing the activity of extremist groups.
The International Sikh Youth Federation is a banned terrorist organization in Canada, yet continues to operate freely, he says. Others such as Babbar Khalsa International, the Khalistan Commando Force, and the Khalistan Zindabad Force remain active.
“Up to the last few years, Canada has done little to confront such organizations,” Quiggin says.
Since the Facebook threats, Dosanjh has said that the rise of extremism can be blamed in part on political correctness and Canada’s polite brand of multiculturalism that tacitly allows it.
“I think what we are doing to this country is that this idea of multiculturalism has been completely distorted, turned on its head to essentially claim that anything anyone believes-no matter how ridiculous and outrageous it might be-is okay and acceptable in the name of diversity,” he told the Globe and Mail.
The issue of growing support by Canadian Sikhs for militants in Punjab was raised when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Stephen Harper met at last month’s nuclear summit in Washington, D.C.
Singh, a Sikh, told Harper that India had “continuing concerns” over the activities of terrorist organizations. Harper is taking the issue seriously, according to the Globe.
Quiggin says Ottawa needs to develop a made-in-Canada solution to the issue of foreign groups who establish themselves in the country “with the intent of undermining Canadian values and using these organizations to shape Canadian policy.”
He hopes this and related concerns will come up for discussion when the Air India report is released in June-the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombing.