JOE CLARK is to receive a and sharper invitation to explain to a Commons committee why he believes Sikh “extremists” pose the greatest threat to Canada’s security.

Clark turned down the multiculturalism committee’s first request that he appear before them, but said he would go before the justice committee with his evidence.

Multiculturalism committee chairman, Tory MP Gus Mitges, said Thursday he hopes Clark will accept the second invitation — in the minister’s “own best interests”.

Conservative MP and committee member Andrew Witer said the second letter to Clark will probably be worded more strongly than the first. No thought has yet been given to seeking ways to force Clark to appear.

Clark opted to give his evidence to the justice committee on the grounds that he has to say involves national security. But multiculturalism committee members said Thursday they want to question him specifically about discrimination against the Sikhs.

Earlier they heard from Canadian leaders of the World Sikh Organization who claimed they are being discriminated against by Clark’s department.

Karnail Singh Gill, director of administration for the Ottawa chapter of the organization, said Sikh immigrants and refugees are being blocked from entry to Canada as a result of a campaign by the Indian government to depict them as “violent extremists”.

Last year Clark wrote to several premiers advising them against taking part in events organized by three Sikh groups, the World Sikh Organization, the Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation.

Clark said some members of these groups “have engaged in or promote violent activities aimed at Indian interests in Canada and elsewhere”

When challenged about the letters March 10 in the House, Clark said: “The activities of a small, militant minority in the Sikh community represent the most serious internal threat that Canada faces today”.

Gill told the committee, “We here to challenge him to produce evidence. We say he can’t do it. He still has not produced or provided ‘one single piece of conclusive evidence”

He said his organization also wants review of all cases of Sikhs being refused refugee status in Canada. Earlier this week it was revealed that Clark last year counseled the Department of Immigration against giving refugee status to Santokh Singh Bagga even though Canadian security services have no evidence of his involvement with violent Sikh groups.

(In 1986 and 1987 the Refugee Status Advisory Committee received 723 claims from Indians — the committee has no separate figures for Sikhs. The committee reviewed 496 cases in the same two year-sand turned down all but one).

Gill said there are no human rights in India and Sikhs are the victims of a protracted campaign by the New Delhi government to depict them as “violent extremists” ‘because of their desire for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan in what is now the Punjab.

Gill insisted that his is a peaceful organization. “We are saying we will strive for Khalistan through peaceful means”.

Asked if the World Sikh Organization has ever condemned violence Gill said: “Not once but many times we have done that. We have countless press releases in which we have said violence doesn’t solve anything”.

Gill told the committee his group has no ties with the International Sikh Youth Federation or the Babbar Khalsa and he didn’t know what their objectives are.

It has been alleged that four members of the Sikh youth organization were involved in the 1985 attempt to assassinate an Indian government minister on Vancouver Island. The federation denies the four members.

Article extracted from this publication >> June 3, 1988