OTTAWA, ONTARIO - The Word Sikh Organization of Canada is disappointed that both Stephen Harper's government and Michael Ignatieff's Opposition Liberals have failed to provide proof of the so-called Sikh extremism they claim is on the rise in Canada.
The WSO, a human rights group, requested both politicians provide evidence to back-up their claims that there is growing radicalism among Canadian Sikhs. The Prime Minister's Office responded with a form letter stating that the WSO's "comments have been noted," while Mr. Ignatieff's office did not even acknowledge receipt of the letter.
"Canadian Sikhs are experiencing a backlash because of these reckless claims made by elected officials. And yet neither the Prime Minister's Office, nor the man who wants to replace him in the job, can be bothered to furnish us with evidence, " says WSO Senior Policy Advisor Gian Singh Sandhu. "I think they owe every Canadian evidence that what they're saying is true."
WSO Canada President Prem Singh Vinning adds that the baseless comments repeated in news media are encouraging attacks on a visible minority and he fears there could be serious consequence for Canada's more than 400,000 Sikhs. The WSO has requested that these politicians either provide proof of what they're claiming, or correct the public record.
"The hateful comments we're seeing online are particularly ugly and they're escalating. And they often follow news stories in which these baseless claims are made," Mr. Vinning says. "I think it's time for the politicians making these claims to take some responsibility for their comments and prove that what they're saying is true."
The WSO also notes that Vancouver Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh has been quoted in Canadian and Indian media claiming radicalism is on the rise and that even 'peaceful campaigns' organized by Sikhs are suspect:
"(Extremism) is much more entrenched, much more sophisticated (than it was in 1985)…it is much more moderate in appearance than you might otherwise see," Mr. Dosanjh told the Toronto Sun. "People run peaceful campaigns and behind the peaceful campaigns is the evil design to hurt other people and to dismember other countries."
During his speech at an Air India memorial Stephen Harper called on Canadians to marginalize "extremists…who seek to import the battles of India's past."
But Mr. Sandhu says the Sikh community has no idea who these supposed extremists are, and doubts they even exist.
"If Mr. Harper has evidence of terrorist activities, we would like him to make it public, otherwise his words taint the entire community unfairly."
As Mr. Ignatieff's bus tour makes its way across Canada and Prime Minister Harper attends various events over the summer, WSO asks Sikh Canadians to ask both leaders for evidence supporting their comments about the so-called rise in extremism in the community.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.