Courtesy Windsor Star, Windsor, Canada it is not fitting for External Affairs Minister Joe Clark to take on the role of unofficial lobbyist for the Indian government. Nor is it likely that Canadians would readily accept his views that provincial governments should boycott activities of Sikh organizations in Canada in order not to irritate the Indian government.

Clark stepped beyond the limits when he named the three Sikh organizations to be boycotted. World Sikh Organization, the International Sikh Youth Federation, and the Babbar Khalsa which he said in letters to provincial governments, exist “largely to advocate the creation of an independent Sikh state, known as Khalistan.”

It is time perhaps for Clark to be reminded that these organizations are legal exist as gathering places and social centers for people who are away from their native land. They satisfy a basic need to preserve a link with their past, a reason why almost every ethnic group in every town in Canada has its own organizations and cultural centers. To single out these three Sikh organizations is unfair unless Clark has evidence that they are, indeed, subversive. In that case the matter should be placed in the hands of the proper authorities to investigate and, if warranted to have the matter settled in the courts.  

So far we have seen no sign that such evidence exists. Provincial legislators were told by Clark only that “the activities’ of these organizations have been a significant irritant in our relations with India,” which is regrettable, of course, but not a good enough reason for a government figure like Clark to try to restrict some basic freedoms of Canadians.

Clark needs to be reminded that Canadians are free to go wherever they want and association with whomsoever they like, without interference from authorities as long as they do not break the law. These freedoms are an essential part of the rights and cultural traditions.

There are, as we all know, strong nationalistic undercurrents among the Sikh organizations in Canada and in other countries where Sikhs live. Some of the Sikhs, perhaps most have a dream of independence in a country of their own, Khalistan. It is not legal, let alone a crime, for people to think of independence or even to strive for it as long as they use legal means.

We do not know what the practices of the Indian government are, but in Canada we do not boycott or ostracize people for their dreams or on the base of assumptions,

Any Sikh who breaks the law will be tried and if found guilty punished as another Canadian lawbreaker would. It would be uncharacteristic of our system of justice to blame an entire ethnic or religious community for whatever mistakes or crimes may be committed, or we might assume to have been committed by some of its members.

Article extracted from this publication >> March 11, 1988