CHANDIGARH: An impression created by fringe groups in Canada — virtually a second Punjab for the Sikh community — that the country is a “bastion for Khalistanis” is incorrect, a Canadian expert, who is now in India, has said.The Khalistan issue, which made headlines during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent India visit, has taken away much of the warmth from Indo-Canadian relations and pushed them back by at least 10 years, said Dr Shinder Purewal, Professor in the Department of Political Science, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey.
By pushing for Khalistan, the fringe groups were diverting attention from the main problem faced by Punjabi youth in Canada — drugs and gang wars, he added.Speaking to The Sunday Standard in Chandigarh, Purewal said 95 per cent of the 6 lakh Sikhs in Canada did not support secession; it was only 5 per cent hardliners who clamoured for a separate Khalistan state. However, the hardliners were well-organised and their voices were heard, primarily because a few were in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies.
“The Canadian elections, due in 2019, will change many things as the general population has understood that you cannot allow a small fringe group to dictate its own narrow interests to the federal government,” he said.The controversy during Trudeau’s visit had underscored the need to control the fringe element, he said. “For now, both Liberals and the NDP (New Democratic Party) are trying to stay away from this issue as they fear a backlash from the Canadian population.
“The people there think it is a diversionary tactic by a fringe element that is trying to block efforts to keep Punjabi youth drug-free.”The controversy had put India-Canada relations back by 10 years, he claimed. “The reason is simple — our PM did not hold trade talks or discussions on the free trade agreement. He failed to understand India’s security issue, that India is facing terrorism from across the border,” he said.
“Given the nature of Canada’s relationship with India, trade of $8 billion per annum is not enough as both countries need each other, mainly in the sectors of energy and natural resources. Besides, the NATO and the US particularly view India as a natural strategy partner, and Canada is a prominent part of NATO.”