World

Canada’s Harjit Sajjan Describes Anti-Sikh Bias He’s Faced

In the aftermath of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that “agents” of the Indian authorities have been concerned within the taking pictures loss of life of a Sikh chief in British Columbia, my colleagues Norimitsu Onishi and Vjosa Isai appeared into rising tensions inside the Indian diaspora in Canada, ones that mirror divisions in India which were fueled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalism.

“Mr. Modi’s Hindu-first policies and increasing intolerance of scrutiny have spilled over into Indian communities worldwide, intensifying historical divisions among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and different castes,” they write. “They have played out in city councils, school boards, cultural celebrations and academic circles.”

[Read: Modi’s Hindu Nationalism Stokes Tension in Indian Diaspora]

(In an additional growth of the tensions between the 2 nations, it seems that India plans to expel most of Canada’s diplomatic representatives from the nation.)

The tensions are all too acquainted to Harjit Sajjan, a Sikh who’s Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness and the previous protection minister who, earlier than coming into politics, was a Vancouver Police detective and a army intelligence officer who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Harassment, rumor mongering and threats — typically requiring police intervention — from Canadian Hindu nationalists have been part of his life lengthy earlier than Mr. Modi took energy, he instructed me.

“I’ve gotten so used to it, now it’s like: ‘Oh, OK, here we go again,’” he instructed me. “It bewilders me why this is taking place. The only thing that I can think of is that there are some ulterior motives by some other organizations.”

Mr. Sajjan, the son of the previous chief constable of the Punjab Police who arrived in Canada along with his household on the age of 5, stated that anti-Sikh threats have been a part of his childhood in British Columbia.

“From my perspective, as somebody who grew up in the community, there’s always fear and there are different levels of fear: from physical harm to somebody is trying to discredit you,” he stated. “I’ve seen that almost on a daily basis.”

Mr. Sajjan stated that he had “lost count” of the variety of instances the police had warned him of threats to himself or his household and that they’d continuously been given particular safety. He was primarily involved concerning the security of his household and his employees, he stated.

“In the last number of years, it’s ramped up a lot more,” he stated, including that among the threats have been unrelated to India’s non secular divides and got here from criminals he had arrested throughout his 11 years on the gangs unit of the Vancouver police power.

When Mr. Sajjan was first elected in 2015 and have become protection minister, he was one among 4 Sikhs in Mr. Trudeau’s cupboard. Politicians in India forged all of them as supporters of Sikh separatism and radicals selling violence. In 2017, Amarinder Singh, the previous chief minister of Punjab, refused to satisfy Mr. Sajjan on that foundation, although the 2 males did be a part of Mr. Trudeau in a gathering the next 12 months.

Whenever folks declare that he’s linked with radical Sikhs searching for to ascertain a separate nation within the Punjab, Mr. Sajjan stated he factors to the safety clearances he went via to affix the police and the army and to work with American troops in Afghanistan as proof that that there isn’t any such a link. But virtually all the time, he stated, it’s fruitless.

“What do you have to do to prove who you are?” he requested.

During his time as a police officer, Mr. Sajjan stated, he commonly noticed how anti-Sikh and anti-Muslim rhetoric and misinformation divided the Indian neighborhood in Vancouver. Indians who remark publicly on politics, he stated, notably associated to human rights, of their house nation are sometimes “labeled” as radicals by Hindus, making many reluctant to talk.

“When I got into politics I wanted to represent my community properly, and I want to make sure that people feel safe,” he stated. “We want to make sure that, in our democracy, we can protect the freedom of speech.”



A local of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the previous 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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