How Canada became home to largest Sikh population outside India | EUROtoday

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The struggles in Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion that traditionally straddled an space now cut up by the border between Pakistan and India, has been mired in a long time of violence, political chaos and migration which have now enmeshed Canada, a nation 1000’s of miles away.

Canada’s place in the midst of tensions surrounding the Khalistan motion, which helps the creation of an impartial state in Punjab for members of the Sikh religion, got here into sharp focus this week following revelations that India could have been concerned within the assassination of a outstanding Sikh separatist in British Columbia.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed the nation’s Parliament on Monday that there have been “credible allegations” that Indian brokers have been concerned within the killing in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a supporter of the Khalistan motion and a frontrunner within the Sikh neighborhood. India denies the costs. The allegation follows a long time of developments which have additional pulled Canada within the dispute.

India expels Canadian diplomat as dispute over alleged assassination escalates

In the 1900s, the primary main wave of Sikhs, nearly all of whom have been males, moved to Canada, largely to work as laborers — logging in British Columbia and manufacturing in Ontario, stated Sardar Harjeet Singh Grewal, who teaches within the division of classics and faith on the University of Calgary.

Destabilization led to by partition, the 1947 splitting of India and Pakistan after the tip of British colonial rule, additional bolstered the emigration of Sikhs from Punjab, he stated.

Though Sikhs additionally moved to Britain, Australia and the United States, they’ve been notably drawn to Canada due to “parallel value systems,” he stated.

“Sikhs see the most semblance of connection to what Canada represents,” Grewal added, noting that there’s now a secondary migration of Sikhs from Britain to Canada. Some of the weather drawing Sikhs to Canada embrace an emphasis on humanity and equality, he stated.

Canada is now home to the largest Sikh population outside of India, with about 770,000 individuals who reported Sikhism as their faith in a 2021 census. While that pales as compared to the 22 million Sikhs in India, largely within the northern state of Punjab, Canada has a a lot smaller population, in order that at 2.1 p.c, the Sikhs make up a bigger portion than in India, the place they’re simply 1.7 p.c of the populace.

Neilesh Bose, an affiliate professor and Canada analysis chair on the University of Victoria in British Columbia, additionally famous that whereas Sikhs are a small minority in India, they comprise a big portion of the South Asians in Canada. That has contributed to an outsize prominence of Sikhs in how Canadians understand South Asia, he stated.

Those perceptions confronted a jolt in 1985, when a bomb went off on an Air India flight from Canada to India by way of Britain; the explosion off the coast of Ireland killed the 329 folks on board. A Sikh extremist was convicted in connection to the bombing.

“After that moment, any public discussion about Sikhs, any Sikh politician … would always be asked about their potential linkages to any terrorist groups or to Khalistan, which colored how they were understood in a way that didn’t occur before that,” Bose stated.

However, not all Sikhs help the separatist motion, and never all supporters of the Khalistan motion imagine in using extremist techniques to press for a Sikh state.

And although the occasion has drawn comparisons to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults within the United States, the Air India bombing didn’t set off a dynamic of bigotry towards Sikhs in Canada as excessive because the one inflicted on Muslims (and a few Sikhs) within the United States after 9/11, he stated.

Today, Sikhs maintain a outstanding place in Canadian society and politics. The head of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, is Sikh. He has been outspoken in regards to the therapy of Sikhs in India, and was denied a visa to go to the nation in 2013, allegedly due to his public statements.

Trudeau made historical past in 2015 when he named 4 Sikhs to his cupboard, greater than the 2 Sikh members of India’s cupboard on the time, which Trudeau reportedly bragged about.