Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s condemnation of Sikh extremism and those looking to bring the Khalistani movement to Canada have been met with praise from the Indo-Canadian community.
Harper’s remarks came as he received an award for fostering good relations between the two democracies of India and Canada during his tenure as prime minister.
“As a government and as a party, we denounced and we refused all relationship with those Khalistanis and others who seek to bring the battles of the past to Canada, and who seek to divide the great country that is modern India,” Harper said at the 2019 Canada-India Foundation Annual Global Indian Award Gala.
The Khalistani movement aims to carve out an ethnostate for Sikhs in India. These groups have resorted to terrorism and assassinations to further their goal.
While the Khalistani movement is unpopular among most Sikhs and consists of a small minority in India, it has gained a following in Canada.
Recently, Canada’s Liberal government baffled security experts and outraged many in the Indian community when it removed all references to Sikh extremism from the official terrorist entity list.
The leader of India’s Sikh-majority Punjab region accused the Canadian government of being complicit with Sikh extremism to win votes.
Canada-India relations have been rocky in recent years, exacerbated by Justin Trudeau’s embarrassing trip to India.
True North’s Candice Malcolm broke the shocking news that a gunman found guilty of attempting to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister visiting Canada in 1986 was invited to attend an official state dinner reception during Justin Trudeau’s India visit.
To strengthen Canada-India relations and prove himself on the global stage, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer visited India in 2018 where he was well received by the India government.
Harper also predicted that Canada-India relations would significantly improve if his successor Scheer becomes prime minister in October.
“I just want to say I look forward to the day, and I look forward to assisting the honourable Prime Minister Modi and the honourable Prime Minister Scheer in making this once again one of the strongest and most important relationships in the world,” he said.
Harper is the first non-Indian to win the Canada-India Foundations Global Indian of the Year Award for strengthening bilateral relations between the two nations.
Harper used his time to warn against harmful identity politics, saying that extremism will not benefit communities in either country.