Parveen Kaur: Hardeep Singh Nijjar's Assassination Brings A Loss Of Trust
"I did not know this man. I had never met him. I don’t live in his city. But as a Sikh living in Canada in 2023, I shared with him the belief that he was free to peacefully speak his mind..."
June 26, 2023 | 3.5 min. read | Opinion
I am grieving. Along with thousands of members of the Sikh community that attended his funeral this Sunday, I am grieving the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Shot to death in the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurudwara. I am grieving for the wife and two children of the activist from Surrey.
I am grieving over the loss of trust in the Canadian government and the protections we are entitled to for our freedom of speech and advocacy. Yet, as his funeral showed, we Sikhs stand defiantly.
I did not know this man. I had never met him. I don’t live in his city. But as a Sikh living in Canada in 2023, I shared with him the belief that he was free to peacefully speak his mind in this country.
My profound naivete made me think that living in Canada offers us protection and freedom. That is, until you upset India. In which case, sorry, we, the Canadian government, cannot protect you, a Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil. You are on your own.
And how does one upset the great Government of India? By speaking about Sikh rights.
Canada has long been infiltrated by Indian spies hellbent on undermining activism in the Sikh diaspora. Growing up in the ’80s in BC, it was common knowledge that India had paid informants all throughout the small towns in far-flung areas of the province who, without evidence, provided the Indian High Commission with reports of Canadian citizens who had even an inkling of an “impure” thought towards “Mother India.”
The most common consequence before recent unprecedented events? India punished these immigrants by denying them the ability to return to their ancestral homes.
For decades, law-abiding Canadians were denied VISAs to visit their parents and to attend funerals and weddings. Children were not exempt from the Government of India’s paranoia, as evidenced by the denial of a VISA to my four-year-old brother.
While a serious consequence for our parents’ generation, in my naivete, I thought that we, the second generation, had moved past this. What more can India possibly do? We were born here. Go ahead and punish us with VISA denials. We do not have an urgent need to visit India. Speaking out against a country that routinely “disappears” those who dare to stand up for their basic rights is our duty. And we are sheltered by the supposed protection of Canadian freedom and laws. We no longer needed to mention Khalistan in hushed tones. Why should we? Freely advocating for the sovereignty of a people is something we are all too familiar with in Canada.
There is, however, one crucial point that makes this a false equivalency. Canada is a democracy, while India is a tyrannical wolf in a democratic sheep's clothing. And, now that violent Indian tyranny has reached Sikhs in Canada too.
For some reason, the Canadian government is more concerned about India’s feelings, a country that openly and gleefully embarrassed our Prime Minister and his entire delegation during their infamous 2018 visit, than protecting its very own citizens from known death threats. India thrives on disinformation campaigns that verge on comical if they were not so dangerous. Yet Canada fails to trust and protect its own citizens.
While I have no strong opinion on Khalistan, I do believe in the ability to advocate for sovereignty without the risk of death. Much misinformation will be spread, as it always is, on the cause of Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death. However, the fact remains a man was shot to death in the parking lot of one of the busiest places of worship in a major city in Canada, with witnesses plenty, and there are still those who question whether this was warranted because of his unwavering support of Khalistan.
I type this while I watch my two preschoolers play, and for a moment, I wonder if the values I am teaching them are, in fact, what will serve them the best. The gathering of thousands for Hardeep Singh’s funeral procession, continuing to raise their voices despite the potential risks, reminds me that, yes, Sikh values will continue to uplift and serve my children and their communities. To stand up when they see injustices. To speak out in the face of tyranny and be conspicuously different in a crowd.
But they will not be taught to have blind faith in a government that is supposedly there to protect them as Canadians. The true north, strong and free, does not apply to all.
Parveen Kaur is a mother of two living in Vancouver, BC.
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