Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Black Press file photo).

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. (Black Press file photo).

VIDEO: Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh taking fire for role in rally

Surrey Liberal MP says it’s something the NDP ‘have to square with the community’

Indian politics is once again making headlines in Canada and this time federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is in the spotlight — for having spoken at a Sikh separatist rally in San Francisco in 2015.

Earlier this month Trudeau and his government took a figurative drubbing in the media after news broke that a Sikh man found guilty of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to attend a reception with the Canadian Liberal prime minister in Mumbai, during his tour of India.

The request for the invitation went through Surrey-Centre MP Randeep Sarai’s constituency office. While Sarai accepted responsibility, he also told the Now-Leader he didn’t personally invite Jaspal Atwal.

See also: EXCLUSIVE: Surrey MP Randeep Sarai speaks out for the first time since Atwal controversy

The NDP leader, also Sikh, made headlines for having taken part in a June 17, 2015 Sikh “sovereignty” rally in the U.S.

Singh, who won the NDP leadership race in October 2017, spoke at the rally for roughly 16 minutes (see full story and video online at surreynowleader.com).

“We need leaders that stand up for Sikh principles,” he told that crowd.

A video of his speech is posted on YouTube, under “March for Freedom.”

One of the video commenters, “himmystic,” wrote, four months ago, “Long live Khalistan! Brother Jagmeet will get us there! Just wait till he becomes Canadian PM…”

Singh issued a statement on March 14 saying “I condemn all acts of terrorism in every part of the world, regardless of who the perpetrators are or who the victims are. Terrorism can never be seen as a way to advance the cause of any one group. It only leads to suffering, pain and death.”

Meantime, former B.C. NDP premier and one-time federal Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh recently expressed to the Now-Leader his concern about the erosion of the separation of church and state in Canada, in the wake of Trudeau’s trip to India.

He called it the “religionization” of politics.

“I hate that that contract is kind of eroding a bit, when politicians begin to look at communities through the prism of religion,” Dosanjh told the Now-Leader.

“That is scarier for me than anything else, as a Canadian… I cherish the separation of church and state.”

Dosanjh is a Sikh and served as Canada’s first Indo-Canadian premier in B.C., from 2000-’01, and federal minister of health in Paul Martin’s government from 2004-06.

Ken Hardie, Liberal MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said Singh’s participation in the rally “is something that, obviously, they (NDP) have to square with the community.

“The community in Surrey and in Brampton certainly supported Mr. Singh in his bid to be the leader of that party,” he said.

“This is something that he would obviously have to square with the people that put him into his position.”

Ken Hardie

“I know that India is very sensitive to the prospect of Sikh independence, and the efforts that we were making over there was to try and allay fears within the Indian government that somehow the Canadian government was sympathetic. Our situation is we’re certainly not going to meddle in the affairs of another sovereign state and that’s again up to them to deal with as they see fit. We want to have good nation-to-nation relationships with India and that means that we support them and their government as they move forward.”

Hardie, who attends a United Church, pulled the Conservative Party into the fray.

He noted that in his riding some churches “are very socially conservative and there’s no doubt where their sentiments and their support lies.”

“Mr. Scheer, when he became leader, certainly got congratulatory messages from the religious right, but that’s going to happen I suppose,” he said of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. “I don’t know that he necessarily welcomed it, but he got it anyway. And judging from his record there’s certainly an affinity between him and the Conservative Party right now and the religious right, but how much influence that means, who knows, right? We don’t know.”

“When we talk about religion, and being connected to politics, that is more a factor of the Conservative Party than it is certainly the NDP or Liberals,” Hardie said.

“We truly remain agnostic when it comes to government policy because government policy applies to everybody regardless of your religion,” he added.

Gordon Hogg, Liberal MP for South Surrey-White Rock, noted that “in a number of other cultures, and other countries, that there is no separation between church and state and that’s something that I know that I’m constantly reminding people of who seem to be crossing that line, and particularly from cultures where they’re not seeing that distinction.

Gordon Hogg

“So I think that’s ever-important, and an important principle of our democratic package and one that other cultures, because they don’t come from the same type of background or belief system, can see some blurring of that,” Hogg said.

“But I think that we’ve been pretty good about holding the line on that,” he added, “and pointing that out when it does happen and recognizing that people from that culture come with that belief and I think to ensure that they do understand that there is a difference, with Canada.”