Canada’s Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the RCMP say an investigation is underway into what they call “threats” against Air India, after an online video said people should not fly with the airline on Nov. 19.
Rodriguez said in a social media post that the government takes any threat to aviation “extremely seriously.”
He says Canada and its security partners are investigating the “recent threats circulating online.” His press secretary confirmed Rodriguez was referring to comments about Air India.
RCMP spokesperson Kristine Kelly said police are collaborating with domestic and international partners and “industry stakeholders” in an investigation into “the threat against Air India flights.”
The online remarks about Air India were made by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, whose U.S.-based group Sikhs for Justice organizes unofficial referendums on creating an independent Sikh state — including recent votes in Surrey, B.C.
In the video, Pannun says in a mix of Punjabi and English that he’s asking Sikhs to “not fly Air India” on Nov. 19, and there will be a “global blockade” against the airline that day.
CBC News has seen another video circulating online that appears to show Pannun asking Sikhs to not travel on Air India flights on Nov. 19 as “there could be a danger to life.”
CBC News has contacted the Indian High Commission in Ottawa about any potential threat to Air India flights and whether it was working with Canadian officials on the matter, but has yet to receive a response.
‘There is no threat’: Pannun
In an interview with CBC News, Pannun did not address the specific video but said his comments in the past have been misconstrued or edited after the fact.
He says he’s calling for a boycott of Air India and other businesses that support the Indian government.
“Sikhs are facing [an] existential threat under India and the community should not strengthen any Indian businesses, including Air India, as this will endanger their lives and future generations,” he said in the interview.
“There is no threat,” he said in a subsequent statement. “RCMP has every right to investigate a terror threat. And if they consider that calling for [a] boycott of Air India as civil disobedience is a terror, then so be it, let them investigate.”
Other recent posts advocating for a Sikh state that have involved Pannun have been admonished by the federal government and other politicians. The Indian government has designated Pannun as a terrorist and labelled Sikhs for Justice an unlawful association.
Nov. 19 is the final day of the cricket World Cup in Ahmedabad, India, an event Pannun refers to in the video as the “World Terror Cup.”
Series of referendums
Pannun is one of the main representatives of the Sikh independence movement in North America, and has been among the leaders of a series of non-binding referendums held among diaspora communities asking whether an independent Sikh state should be established within India.
Thousands have turned out in Surrey recently for two rounds of referendum voting at the same gurdwara where Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another leader of the movement, was shot and killed in June.
In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that there were “credible allegations” potentially linking India’s government to Nijjar’s killing. India has strongly denied the claims.
In 2005, a Canadian government report concluded that the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people were carried out as a result of a conspiracy by Sikh separatists that was “planned and executed” in Canada.
Only one man, bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat, was ever convicted.
Source : CBC