Kids Corner


Bigots Come Out Of The Woodwork To Troll
Jagmeet Singh,
The New Canadian Leader





Nearly 70 years since Sikhs and other South Asians won the right to vote in Canada, Jagmeet Singh has become the first non-white leader of one of the country’s major political parties.

Media coverage of Jagmeet’s historic victory has ranged from admiration of the new leader’s alpha-male swagger to questions of whether he will hinder his party’s appeal at the Quebec polls. While most stories have understandably commented on the visible symbols of his Sikh faith, a few have taken an oddly suspicious tone of whether keeping a turban and beard is a gateway to misplaced loyalties — in Jagmeet’s case that being in supporting Sikh resistance fighters in India.

Ironically, the one media outlet that seemed to fumble over itself to roll out this unwelcome mat was none other than Canada’s state broadcaster, the traditionally left-leaning CBC.

In an aggressive Fox-style interview on Power & Politics, journalist Terry Milewski interviewed Jagmeet for his first appearance on the station since winning the NDP leadership. He tossed Jagmeet a few softball questions about his leadership plans before cutting incongruently into a question that rhetorically implied a connection between Jagmeet and the Air India bombing from three decades ago: Does Jagmeet condemn Sikhs who venerate Talwinder Parmar, the man considered to be the architect of the bombing of Flight 182 in 1985?

Jagmeet Singh was 5 years old in 1985!

The broadside seemed to take Jagmeet by surprise. He deflected while the CBC host kept doggedly pressing him. Eventually the awkwardly un-Canadian exchange ended in a stalemate. The post-mortem discussion on social media, however, questioned the fairness of this line of inquiry.

Milewski’s cross-examination was loaded, first of all, with the assumption that Jagmeet, a Sikh born in Canada on the cusp of the millennial generation, should be studied in the history of Talwinder Parmar, and the intricacies of an Indian separatist movement from 30 years ago.

This would be on par with assuming that Tom Mulcair, the previous NDP leader, should know the history of Sinn Fein just because his father was an Irish Catholic immigrant.

But even if Jagmeet knows his history of 1980s Sikh separatism, was he being asked to denounce the personal views of other Sikhs who honour Parmar for his purported crimes merely because Jagmeet himself is a practicing Sikh?

Or was he being asked because there are such followers in his political base?

Either way, these questions lead to a troubling double standard when compared to CBC’s treatment of other politicians, such as the Conservative Party’s new leader Andrew Scheer. In an interview earlier this year, Scheer was asked about his views on same-sex marriage and abortion, but at no point was the devout Catholic asked to openly condemn his fellow Catholic congregants who view same-sex marriage as an abomination.

Meanwhile, other Canadian politicians with a significant following in the Sikh community have also been spared Milewski’s rough treatment. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has never been asked to condemn the portion of his Sikh base who honour the memorialize Parmar. In the 2015 election, Trudeau benefited mightily from the Sikh vote, delivered to him by organizers from the World Sikh Organization — a group that once advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh homeland, on the heels of the Air India bombing. The WSO has also delivered for past Liberal leaders, including Jean Chretien.

Media hypocrisy, however, reaches its apex each spring in Surrey, when dozens of federal, provincial and municipal politicians, along with senior representative from the armed forces, RCMP, major banks and other federal bodies congregate at the Khalsa Day Parade on 128th Street. The event, which drew 300,000 attendees this past year, is hosted by Dasmesh Darbar, the largest gurdwara in B.C. At this gurdwara, a kind of Sikh version of the Yasukuni Shrine, Parmar and other Sikh separatists are lionized through posters and photo memorials.

In the years since the Air India bombing -- [for which, incidentally, there is a mountain of evidence pointing to Indian ’intelligence’ operatives as the criminals, not any Sikhs] -- mainstream media has leaned heavily on a false, and self-perpetuated, binary of “moderates” versus “fundamentalists” when reporting on news with a Sikh angle. This was partly the consequence of non-diverse newsrooms in the 1980s and 1990s struggling to decipher the inner-workings of a complex community with which many were unfamiliar.

So media outlets created go-to contacts, such as gurdwara presidents and politicians, who became the default spokespeople for an entire range of issues, regardless of their familiarity on these topics or with the English language. These individuals, in turn, used their privileged positions to perpetuate this divide in which “moderates” became seen as forward-looking secularists who, typically, didn’t wear turbans, while fundamentalists were ‘orthodox’ in religious practice and therefore to be automatically considered ardent supporters of an Sikh homeland independent of India.

In the three decades since Air India, two generations of Sikhs have grown out of the shadow of the separatist turmoil. These youth tend to speak English and French better than they do Punjabi and they are politically active through social justice causes.

Jagmeet is part of this new educated generation which continues to advocate — arguably with more passion and idealism than their parents — for redress on behalf of the tens of thousand Sikhs systematically murdered by government supported pogroms in Delhi in 1984 and the decade that followed.

Jagmeet, and other young Sikh-Canadian, however, are equally as impassioned by other Canadian-based and international causes such as attaining meaningful reconciliation for this country’s Aboriginal communities and protecting the environment, or criticising accesses by the Trump regime south of our border.

This complexity, however, becomes lost in translation for reporters like Milewski because they still insist on viewing the Sikh community through the tenuous lens of Air India and the separatist struggle that long ago withered on the vine. The community has changed but their narrative framework for reporting has not evolved.

Consequently, Jagmeet’s social activism and even his belief in self-determination becomes recklessly conflated as support for a man accused of terrorism three decades ago. And it happens on national television, as it did on Power & Politics where CBC got caught judging a book by its cover as Milewski shamelessly and unprofessionally tried to pin down Jagmeet as a Sikh “fundamentalist.”

If there was any extremism in Canada that day, it was in the manner by which CBC treated the new leader of the NDP.

Jagmeet Singh won his party leadership and the support of the party grassroots because he is a person who embodies the nuances of a modern Canada. Until CBC figures out how to articulate that, Canada’s state broadcaster will continue to foster uncomfortable exchanges that do little to bring together Canadians of all backgrounds.

[The author is a media professional and journalist based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.]

Courtesy: The Vancouver Sun. Edited for]
October 16, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: T J Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), October 19, 2017, 12:34 AM.

Bravo, Jagdish Singh, bravo! A very articulate and intelligently written article that captures the essence of the bias faced by the Sikh community from the Western media which is whole-heartedly supported by the likes of Ujjal Dosanjh and Shinder Purewal and if I may, their champion - Kim Bolan of your very own Vancouver Sun. Bravo for showing the courage and tenacity in writing such a compelling article.

2: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), October 20, 2017, 3:48 PM.

The election of Jagmeet Singh has alarmed New Delhi so much that it has gone into an undeclared emergency and is using all its assets in Canada and New Delhi to defame and undermine Jagmeet Singh and Sikhs in Canada. The usual suspects in the Canadian media who disseminate Indian propaganda and hatred against Sikhs have all come alive in unison. The leader of this gang, Terry Milewski, started the gotcha question by repeating his baseless and nonsensical lies about Air India and was quickly followed by Tarek Fateh and Lorrie Goldstein in Toronto Sun, and Graeme Hamilton in the National Post, repeating the same talking points verbatim. Just yesterday, Jonathan Kay of CBC, well known for his lies against Sikhs, stooped further into the gutter by headlining his attack with this outrageous comparison: "Imagine for a moment if an American politician were asked about Osama Bin Laden, and her response was that she had no idea who was responsible for September 11. She'd become instantly unelectable for dog catcher — no matter what her skin color." Overnight here in Canada and when it is day time in New Delhi, an army of Talibanic Hindu trolls deployed by Indian agencies and of course some bigoted Canadians, have already posted 1500 comments on his article, showing the the worst of humanity with their lies, disinformation, and poisonous and hateful propaganda against Sikhs and Jagmeet Singh. Hypocrisy and double standards of the western establishment are appalling and the flashing $ signs of trade opportunities with a third rate country has blinded them from seeing the truth and reality of the most corrupt country in the world and its most horrible record of human rights abuses. Has this same media gang ever asked two Canadian Prime Ministers, Harper and Trudeau, and the recently elected Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown who gushes about Narinder Modi as a personal friend, to justify the glorification of Modi’s crimes? Have they ever questioned anyone in the Canadian political establishment for embracing Modi inspite of his well documented role in the mass murder of thousands of innocent citizens for which he was a denied visa for ten years? Have they ever questioned any of the Canadian Government leaders for inviting the head of the largest terrorist organization in the world, the RSS, as a state guest? But shamefully it is OK for the same gang to ask Jagmeet Singh for a tragedy that happened when he was in nursery school and for which Indians themselves are complicit. Unfortunately Sikhs have not forcefully confronted the media about the well known role of Indian agencies in the Air India bombing as told by two journalists in the book "Soft Target" including the the mysterious circumstances of the posting of a top Indian spy, Maloy Krishana Dhar, in Toronto before the Air India bombing, who has admitted in his book "Open Secrets" his role in infiltration and destabilization activities in cultivating rogue elements for nefarious activities. No one has ever asked a very simple question about the presumed mastermind of Air India tragedy, Talwinder Parmar, who was killed in Punjab police custody on orders from New Delhi. His tape recordings while in Punjab police custody have been given to the John Major Commission by the police officer who was present during his interrogation. Why the media has never asked "What was the Indian Government hiding by eliminating the 'mastermind" of a heinous crime instead of handing him over to Canada". Why is the Canadian Government and media so scared of the Indian Government by not asking this very pertinent question and investigate and unearth the real culprits behind the terrorist act? May be it has something to do with trade, politics or, maybe, even racism?

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), October 26, 2017, 12:29 AM.

There is one guaranteed way to sort out the press, media, racists and bigots, etc when it comes to the House Of Nanak and the Khalsa and that's by laying out accurately the history and achievements of Sikhs worldwide.

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Jagmeet Singh,
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