Khalistani flags, slogans raised at Vancouver Vaisakhi parade

April 18th, 2010 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Vancouver, April 18 (IANS) Pro-Khalistan flags were raised and photos of Sikh “martyrs” displayed at a Vaisakhi parade (nagar kirtan) in Surrey near here Saturday.
Pro-Khalistan slogans were also raised at the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh temple which organized the parade. Indo-Canadian MP Sukh Dhaliwal was the only prominent politician to attend the parade.

Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, whose city council authorizes such parades in its jurisdictions, left the parade because of the controversial float carrying Khalistani flags and photos of ‘martyrs.’

The premier (chief minister) of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, also stayed away from the parade after the organizers issued threats to top Indo-Canadian leader and former Canadian health minister Ujjal Dosanjh and local MLA Dave Hayer who are known for their opposition to elements who still speak of a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.

As she left the parade, the mayor was quoted as saying that the city authorities had been given “assurances by the organizers that that float was not going to be in there, and lo-and-behold, it showed up, which was really disappointing.”

The premier also stayed away from the parade, insisting that the organizers apologize to Dosanjh and Hayer for issuing threats.

“Unless there has been a direct apology (by the organizers) to the two individuals that were mentioned … I would find it difficult agreeing to go,” the premier had said Friday.

Michael Ignatieff, leader of Dosanjh’s Liberal Party, also condemned the organizers, saying, “We must unequivocally condemn all threats of violence and extremism in Canadian communities. No public official, no matter what their political affiliation, should ever be excluded or require security at a public event such as this.

“It is appropriate that the organizers extend my colleague Ujjal Dosanjh and BC MLA Dave Hayer an apology.”

Hotbed of militancy in Canada at the time of terrorism in Punjab, Surrey is home to the largest concentration of the Sikh community in North America where cultural festivals are usually celebrated at weekends.

The Vaisakhi parade here attracts more than 100,000 people from across North America.

The parade made headlines in 2007 when a photo of the Air India Kanishka bombing mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar was displayed in the presence of top Canadian political leaders.

Since then, politicians have been wary about attending the Vaisakhi parade. The organisers are sympathisers of Babbar Khalsa and the International Sikh Youth Federation which are banned in Canada.

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