Conservatives drop India motion after uproar from Canadian Sikh community

Political reality strikes – both the Liberals and Conservatives have been flirting with identity politics:

The Conservative Party decided early Thursday not to proceed with a House of Commons motion that a Canadian Sikh organization says labels its community as “terrorists.”

The Canadian Sikh Association posted on its social media channels Thursday morning that they were thankful the Tories had backed down from a proposed motion from foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole. Sukhpaul Tut, chair and spokesman for the association, is calling on the party to apologize for having written it in the first place.

One of two the Conservatives were considering for Thursday would’ve asked the House to “value the contributions of Canadian Sikhs and Canadians of Indian origin in our national life” but also to condemn all forms of terrorism “including Khalistani extremism and the glorification of any individuals who have committed acts of violence to advance the cause of an independent Khalistani state in India.” The motion concludes with support for “a united India.”

The Tories have instead opted to pursue a motion about the Canada Summer Jobs program.

According to the Sikh association, that decision came after a night-long campaign. “Throughout the whole night, the Sikh Community has been working aggressively to refute the frivolous allegations of labelling our community as terrorists at the request of foreign and corrupt entities,” a Facebook post says.

“We are thankful that the Conservative Party of Canada has come to its senses and confirms at 7:30 am this morning that they will not proceed with the motion. Our children will continue to live in Canada without facing foreign intimidation.”

O’Toole, reached Thursday afternoon, said the party decided not to go ahead now because “the story’s still evolving.” The motion is still on the notice paper.

“We haven’t pulled it. We’re looking at the right time to do it,” O’Toole said. Still, he said his caucus is “certainly listening to people” and it’s possible there will be adjustments to the motion.

“The motion was being misrepresented by a lot of people and certainly became very political. We want to make sure that no one is offended in the process, and the language will be very careful to make sure of that.”

O’Toole said the party is not trying to perpetrate an attack on any group, and suggested his political opponents were behind Wednesday night’s email campaign. “I’ve got notes from people saying that the Liberal Party itself was behind several of the emails,” he said.

Tut said members of the community from coast to coast engaged in “old-fashioned advocacy,” picking up the phones from late afternoon Wednesday through to Thursday morning. “Everybody was on board and was extremely shocked by this motion and expected that something needed to be done,” Tut explained.

The wording of the motion was “extremely wrong and was disingenuous and needed to be pulled, because the community doesn’t deserve to be painted with such a negative and broad brush like that,” he said. Tut likened the move to “cheap politics” and said the community expects better from its political leaders.

Conservative spokesman Jake Enwright wouldn’t comment on the rationale behind dropping the motion. “The rationale for that motion is that we believe in a united India. We think it’s important that the House states that. But I’m not going to get into any of the conversations that we’re having behind closed doors, and amongst our caucus and amongst our leadership team,” he said.

Enwright didn’t refute the Sikh association’s interpretation of events, but said, “I’m not going to comment on how they took that motion. I respect their opinion and I won’t comment on it.” He added the party doesn’t ultimately move all of the motions it puts on the House of Commons notice paper and it’s a “usual process” to pick and choose.

Canada is estimated to have the world’s largest Sikh community outside of India. More than 450,000 people across the country self-identified as following the religion in the 2011 census. The community has long been important to Canadian electoral politics.

“The Conservative Party has no problem going to our gurdwaras and temples and going to our festival, right, and our celebrations and our parade. I mean, the right thing to do if they’re going to count on the support of the community is to come out and apologize,” Tut said.

“They’re all champions of the community when it’s election time, but now all of a sudden, ‘we can throw the community under the bus.’”

via Conservatives drop India motion after uproar from Canadian Sikh community | National Post

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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