Sikh group makes bid to block Amarinder Singh’s visit to Canada

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto
  • Updated: Apr 21, 2016 20:26 IST
File photo of youngsters taking a selfie with Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh in Patiala on April 15. (HT Photo)

A Sikh group in Canada has launched a bid to block a visit by former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who is expected to begin a seven-day trip to Toronto and Vancouver on Friday.

In recent months, campaigning for next year’s assembly election in Punjab has arrived in distant Canada. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) commenced activities and plans to bring in Arvind Kejriwal to make a pitch to its supporters.

Singh, a Congress MP in the Lok Sabha, is scheduled to travel to Canada before the Delhi chief minister. But hardline activist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) is trying to ensure Punjab politicking doesn’t make it to the country.

Toronto-based law firm Goldblatt Partners, on behalf of the SFJ, has sent a memorandum to foreign minister Stephane Dion, claiming Singh’s visit will violate a circular issued in September 2011 wherein the department stated it will “not allow foreign governments to conduct election campaigns in Canada or establish foreign political parties or movements in Canada”.

The missive asks the Canadian government to “lodge a formal objection” with the Indian high commission in Ottawa over this matter.

While such a policy will also apply to AAP’s campaigning in Canada, the focus at this time is the Congress leader’s impending arrival. Singh is expected to address two large gatherings in Toronto and Vancouver and attend smaller meetings.

Amarpreet Aulakh, president of the Indian Overseas Congress Canada East, said these are “private” events and not open to the public. “This is an outreach programme,” he said, for Singh to put forward his point to NRIs before the Punjab polls.

The Congress has made arrangements for additional security at the venues, given the possibility of protests.

SFJ plans to up the ante in case Singh’s visit goes ahead. In a statement, its legal advisor Gurpatwant Pannun said the group will launch a private criminal prosecution against Singh if he comes to Canada, on the grounds that, during his tenure as chief minister, he appointed or reinstated officials allegedly involved in torture or extra-judicial killings in Punjab.

“The Canadian Constitution promotes human rights and does not condone the acts of those who participate or protect violators,” Pannun said.

The threat of a similar suit in 2013 may have caused Punjab’s then deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal to cancel his trip to Canada.

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