OTTAWA, Ontario, Can.: A press note released by World Sikh Organization from Canada hailed Thursday, March 10th, 1989, as a historic day for the Sikhs in Canada. On this day Parliament of Canada not only officially discussed its position on Sikh organizations but also paid glowing tributes to the Sikh people’s culture, heritage and their contribution to the Canadian multiculturalism and vindicated their right of free expression.
Right Honorable Sergio Marchi, Member of Parliament from York West, moved the following motion in the Parliament against Secretary for External Affairs, Mr. Joe Clark:
“That, in the opinion of this House, the Secretary of State for External Affairs erred seriously in urging upon the Provincial Premiers. A political boycott of three Sikh organizations in Canada, thereby condemning entire groups on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations against individuals and, consequently undermining the multicultural fabric of Canadian society;
That this House, while condemning violence and terrorism as political instruments, affirms that all Canadian citizens, regardless of origin must not be subjected to prevent their free and peaceful expression of their opinions and concerns about events and issues in Canada or in other lands; and
That this House therefore demands that the Government provide Parliament with all relevant information that led to its aforementioned communication with the Province and provide the Canadian Sikh community with a full, public opportunity to defend its honor and integrity and that the Government immediately withdraw its allegations and issue full apology to all Canadians, and to the Canadian Sikh community in particular, for initiating an unprovoked attack on the rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens and for thereby subverting federal multiculturalism policy.
Right Honorable Serigio Marchi made a scathing attack on Mr. Joe Clark, Secretary of State for External Affairs for writing, now known as the nefarious letter restraining the elected representatives of the government from attending the social, religious, or cultural functions sponsored by the three Sikh organizations — World Sikh Organization, International Sikh Youth Federation and Babbar Khalsa. He stated that on one hand, the Prime Minister of the country was congratulating the members of World Sikh Organization for their contribution in strengthening the unity of its community and the people of Canada, but on the other hand, Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mr. Joe Clark, was secretly advocating by cotting the very same organization.
He defended the right of any political organization to propagate its objectives and policies through peaceful means within the laws of the land, which is the fundamental liberty of our people. How could this right be denied and infringed upon by a government which urges a boycott of these organizations, he asked.
“The Minister for External Affairs is either Minister for External Affairs for Canada or he is the Minister for External Affairs for India. If he is the Minister of External Affairs for the latter, he might have some justification for saying the things he did because that would be his prerogative. But he is a Canadian Minister, a Canadian Member of Parliament, who must always maintain the first rule, which is to stand up for Canada and stand up for the Canadian people whosoever they might be. He abdicated that responsibility and I draw it to this attention”, he said.
Although Mr. Joe Clark was appeasing the Government of India to secure “relations” with India by writing this letter, yet Indian authorities completely dissociated themselves from that letter and left Mr. Joe Clark on its own to defend the indefensible act.
Continuing Right Hon’ble Marchi said, “We were not willing to, in order to enjoy the favor of existing Indian government to sacrifice Canadians of Sikh origin here, nor should we do it in any relationship with another government.
Participating in the debate Rt. Hon’ble Nelson A. Riis from Kamloops — Shuswap said, “The fact that there are Canadian citizens, people living in Canada, who have personal views about the need for a country such as Khalistan ought to be of little concern to the Secretary of State for External Affairs. These are Canadian citizens who, by our Constitution, have the right to hold whatever views they wish to hold in terms of having the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression. I must also remind the Secretary of State for External Affairs that Canadians have the freedom of peaceful assembly to discuss matters of concern to them, whatever they maybe”. Rt. Hon’ble Kaplan, member for York Centre and the former Solicitor General said:
“He (Mr. Joe Clark) is telling these people to come to Canada, to make this their homeland, to bring us their ideas, their songs, their dances, and their dishes, but not to open their baggage. He is telling them to leave their suitcases closed, to lock them up in their cupboards and not to start bringing out the things which bothered them when they were living in their historic homeland.
What nonsense that is. It is completely unacceptable to limit multicultural communities to living their lives in Canada now, to tell them that now that they are in Canada they must be good boys and girls and forget about the problems in the part of the world from which they came”.
Rt. Hon’ble Svend J. Robinson from Burnaby further added:
“Evidently we have seen other disturbing illustrations of unfair attacks on the Sikh community in Canada. CSIS, the civilian security intelligence service, and indeed the RCMP, in their response to certain violent incidents, have effectively branded an entire community as being unlawful or as supporting terrorism. Members of the Sikh community itself are the first is denounced violence and acts of terrorism. It is for that reason that the community has taken such strong exception to some of the actions of CSIS and the RCMP in recent months.”
In conclusion he demanded an inquiry into the circumstances leading to this letter. This inquiry, he said, would provide a forum in which Canadians, members of these organizations and members of larger Canadian Sikh community could defend their honor, their integrity and their place in Canada or alternately, the Minister ought to withdraw the letter ‘or apologize for writing it.
This debate in the Canadian Parliament acknowledging the Sikh people’s contributions to Canada and the Canadian society fully endorsed the aspirations of the Sikh people and their right of free expression.
We hope that other countries in the Western World also take a lead from Canada to defend the
Sikh residents in their country and clean up their tarnished image caused by disinformation and mischievous Indian propaganda. They owe this much at least to their citizens.
Article extracted from this publication >> April 1, 1988