Did Prime Minister Trudeau screw up Indo-Canadian relations, again?

According to a report by Rahul Kalvapalle of Global News, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, yet again, managed to annoy India, the world greatest democracy and an emerging major social, economic and military power, by, yet again, pandering to a domestic political pressure group ~ Sikh Canadians ~ at the expense of our diplomatic and trade relationships.

The report says that “The leader of India‘s Sikh-majority Punjab state has slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party after the federal government removed direct references to Sikh extremism in a recent terrorism threat report … [and] … Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, whose meeting with Trudeau was one the flashpoints of the prime minister’s troubled trip to India last year, called the move “a threat to Indian and global security” … [and, further] … Singh suggested that Trudeau was kowtowing to Sikh voters ahead of October’s federal election, slamming the Liberals for what he called a “knee-jerk decision that was clearly aimed at protecting its political interests in an election year.”” Readers may remember that Amarinder Singh accused the Canadian prime minister of harbouring Sikh separatists in his cabinet, something Trudeau denied. But the suspicion that Canada is soft on Sikh separatists is strong in India.

The Canadian Press reported that “The 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada drew the ire of the Sikh community when it was released in December … [because] … For the first time, the report listed Sikh extremism as one of the top five extremist threats in Canada … [and] … Although the objections were largely about the inclusion of Sikhs at all, because of the report’s lack of evidence to back it up, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he would at least ask for a review of the language the report used … [and, further] … He said entire religions should never be equated with terrorism … [but] … the Global News reports says that the prime minister also said he wanted to avoid impugning an entire religion, but references to both Shia and Sunni Islamist Etermish remain in the report:

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I assert that neither the Sikh nor Islamic communities in Canada pose, in and of themselves, a “terrorist threat to Canada;” neither do First Nations or sundry ‘Black Lives Matter‘ activists nor, for that matter, white people. But there are a few individuals within all those groups who do pose serious and identifiable threats to Canada or who use Canada as a base to support terrorist activities in other, friendly nations.

I suggested, more than two years ago, that the Trudeau Liberals were (still are) “tone deaf” on moral and ethical issues but they also seem to have lost their grip on diplomatic issues, too, and they seem to have not learned much of anything in the past three and half years. Bureaucrats in the security services drafted the report which specified Shia, Sikh and Sunni extremists as terrorist threats to Canada, but I am 99.99% certain that ministerial political staffers and government (partisan) “communications” specialists vetted that draft report before its first release for comment. Why didn’t they notice that the motives of entire religious communities were being impugned?

I’ve also been saying, for almost as long as this blog has been up, that Team Trudeau is a “campaign team” rather than a governing team. They were brilliant campaigners in 2015 and I suspect they are still formidable at winning voters’ hearts … but, perhaps, no longer their minds. Every action seems designed to secure an election victory with the needs of Canada being relegated to a very distant second or third or even lower place. The decision to name names in a report on terrorist threats was brave, the decision to remove one of the names was crass, domestic, partisan political calculation which may have worked well enough in those ridings where the Sikh vote matters … and the Sikh vote does matters, as Douglas Todd reported in the  Vancouver Sun, while “the country only has 500,000 Sikhs, accounting for a little more than one per cent of all Canadians … [that’s about 1.3% of the population, but] … more than 12 per cent of federal Liberal cabinet ministers are Sikhs, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. There are 14 Liberal Sikh MPs, says Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist Shinder Purewal. Liberals hold all nine federal ridings in which Punjabi Sikhs predominate, says Purewal, plus 11 more in which the South Asian population is significant.” So it’s pretty clear why the Liberals (and the Conservatives and the NDP) are courting the Sikh vote so assiduously: they can deliver 20+ ridings. But the political need to court Sikh votes must be weighed against the national need to maintain good, friendly relations with India which is a rising great power.

Jason Kenney did it right in 2012; Justin Trudeau has done it wrong, again and again, and now, it appears, once again. I expect Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh to all be out looking for votes in the Sikh community … all three need to follow Jason Kenney’s example.

 

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