It is with extreme concern that we are compelled to issue this open letter regarding certain developments that explicitly target the Indo-Canadian community. As you are perhaps aware, the threats issued by a group of violence-prone extremists to our community have taken on dangerous dimensions of late. One such self-appointed extremist leader issued a warning to Canadians not to travel on Air India in the month of November, trying to blatantly to put fear into the people by drawing attention to what another similar minded group did to Air India in the 1980s, killing 329 Canadians, the worst case of air terror till 9/11 in the US.
We are completely at a loss seeing how little interest it has garnered in the media. We are even more disappointed that our political leaders have maintained a total silence on this grave issue. This selective approach to dealing with terrorism and threats will not make this world a safe place. Air India is part of Star Alliance, of which Air Canada is one of the founding members. Any threat to Alliance partner is threat to all partners and alliance itself and needs a collective response.
Canada India Foundation (CIF) is writing this letter to bring to the immediate attention of all rational Canadians a matter of significant and growing concern within Indo Canadian community that directly impacts public safety and the well-being of Canadian citizens. The concern arises from several threatening incidents at places of worship of the community, primarily that of the Hindu community, vandalism and video threats through social media.
The attacks on Hindu places of worship are well documented. Among the several temples targeted in recent months are: Ram Mandir in Mississauga, Vishnu Mandir in Richmond Hill, BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Toronto, Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey. The extremists have mounted a sustained campaign to instill fear and insecurity among the community by gathering outside places of worship to disturb and upset the prayer services. Doesn’t every community have a right to freedom of religion and free worship anymore in Canada?
It is distressing to note that these incidents are not isolated but appear to be part of a disturbing trend affecting the peace-loving Canadian Hindu and Sikh community, which is an integral part of the Indo-Canadian diaspora. Many of our members raised that the threats are not limited to Hindu places of worship, but to Hindus in general, with social media messages from the same extremist groups telling Hindus to leave Canada.
To illustrate our contention, we would like to draw your attention to an incident that happened at the Kalibari Temple in Mississauga on November 25, 2023, which was not first and maybe not last of it’s kind- unless someone wakes up and takes an action. A bunch of rowdy elements from this extremist group disrupted a special service being extended by the Consulate General of India in Toronto for the benefit of the old and frail Indo Canadians who need to renew their ‘life certificate’ to keep their Indian pension benefits current. Officers are deputed to various community centres under this program to help the senior citizens who are otherwise unable to reach the Consulate’s downtown offices. This is a clear interference with a legitimate and humanitarian outreach by the Indian consulate. It is unfortunate that such incidents should take place at a time when Canada and India are in the midst of renewed efforts to solve bilateral issues. Any continued threat to diplomatic staff as witnessed in the past affect services which will affect Indo-Canadian community at large.
We whole-heartedly welcome the recent initiatives that have brought back progress in the dialogue between Canada and India. On the other hand, these elements deliberately seek to damage that positive outcome by creating divisions among the communities. The targeting and threatening of Indian diplomats in Canada will hamper further progress being made in the bilateral relationship. As an organization, dedicated to building the strongest and a respectful engagement with India, we are utterly disappointed that these disruptive forces have been given such a free rein.
The situation not only poses a direct threat to public safety but also undermines the principles of religious freedom and harmony that are fundamental to the Canadian society we cherish. We seek the urgent attention of governments at all three levels, law enforcement agencies and media to this very critical issue that one day has the potential to wreak havoc in our community.
As concerned citizens, we look to our elected representatives across party lines to be aware of, to address and to mitigate such challenges wherever they raise their ugly heads to pose a threat to the safety & security of our communities and stand collectively against extremist ideology of any kind.
We have written separately to the Minister of Public Safety, Government of Canada, to take immediate and decisive action to investigate these incidents and create a framework and atmosphere so that individuals and groups that have a violent agenda are not treated with kid gloves.
It is essential that we foster an environment where diverse communities can coexist peacefully, regardless of their religious or cultural background and contribute positively to the Canadian mosaic. We hope that we can all work together in pushing back against the extremist elements and upholding the values that make Canada a beacon of inclusivity and tolerance.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of all Canadians.