Canada PM Skips Khalsa Day Parade in Toronto This Year
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who riled the Indian government after attending the Khalsa Day Parade last year, skipped the event this time.
Recovering from the debacle of his India trip and resulting controversies surrounding the visit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted to skip the annual Khalsa Day Parade in Toronto on April 29, the Hindustan Times reported. His appearance at the event last year invited disapproval from the Indian government.
The parade, which sees Sikhs sporting Khalistan flags and chanting Sikh independence slogans, was, however, attended by top Canadian leaders, who also participated in Surrey’s Baisakhi celebration in British Columbia last week. Among the politicians who attended both the events was New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, who has faced heat for being associated with Sikh separatist events in the past. He said in Toronto that human rights violations in India were similar to those in Syria and those against the Rohingya in Myanmar, the Hindustan Times reported. While Singh’s presence at the Surrey event went unannounced and unmarked on social media, he was in the limelight in Toronto.
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne also addressed the gathering, where banners for a 2020 referendum for a separate Sikh homeland, and Khalistan flags were seen flying. The posters at Khalsa Day Parade featured Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the founder of Khalistan movement. Floats in memory of assassins of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were also seen at the event, the report added. Cabinet minister Navdeep Bains was also present at the parade, along with a host of other Canadian MPs and political leaders.
Trudeau, who was scheduled to be in Toronto for the #TorontoStrong vigil held in memory of victims in a van rampage, bypassed the nagar kirtan — a neighborhood recital of hymns — held at Nathan Phillips Square in downtown Toronto. An Indian official called Trudeau’s move as “some improvement,” even as the attendance of other leaders at the events seemed like “business as usual,” the report added.
The referendum posters and floats honoring Indira Gandhi’s assassins were also seen at Baisakhi celebration in Surrey last week, which was attended by British Columbia’s premier John Horgan, and several provincial legislators, according to local Surrey publications.
The Surrey event was organized by Dashmesh Durbar gurdwara, where Talwinder Singh Parmar, the accused of the bombing of Air India flight 182 in 1985, is memorialized.
Saying that politicians in Canada respect “freedom for expression” of Canadian Sikhs, Gurpatwant Pannun, legal adviser for Sikhs For Justice, the organization that was present at Khalsa Day Parade and is at the forefront of the 2020 referendum demand, told the Hindustan Times: “It’s not India’s place to direct Canadian political leaders where they can go.”
The Khalsa Day Parade was also held at other places around the world, including Birmingham in the United Kingdom. New Jersey’s Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla attended the event at Manhattan. Victoria in Australia saw a parade for the first time in 100 years, Times Colonist reported. These parades generally include men, women and children dressed in traditional clothes, live music, a display of Sikh martial arts, decorated floats and culinary specialties.