Premier didn’t know parade would include salute to terror suspect: aide
B. C. Premier Gordon Campbell would not have attended a recent Vaisakhi parade in Surrey if he had known it would include a float honouring suspected Air India mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar, Campbell’s aide Mike Morton said Thursday.
Morton said the premier participated in the April 7 Vaisakhi parade without any prior knowledge that it would include a display of support for suspected terrorists or designated terrorist organizations.
But, as The Vancouver Sun first reported April 9, a float in the parade of a group called Sikh Vision carried several photos of Parmar, as well as other “ martyrs” to the Sikh separatist cause, including the two men who assassinated former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Marching behind the Sikh Vision float was Ajaib Singh Bagri, a former Babbar Khalsa leader who was charged and acquitted in the Air India bombing.
Bagri’s son- in- law is Parmar’s son, Jaswinder Singh Parmar, a
founder of Sikh Vision who also marched in the parade and later took the stage with organizers of the event from the Dasmesh Darbar temple.
Slogans for Khalistan — the name Sikh separatists give to an imagined homeland for which some have agitated — were chanted from the stage by temple executive members who wore new vests emblazoned with a Khalistan crest.
Families of the Air India victims and some moderate Sikh leaders condemned the display of support for a movement that led to violence in Canada in the 1980s, with the worst act being the 1985 Air India bombing plot that killed 331.
Another float in the Surrey parade also contained pictures of Parmar and proclaimed that “ Khalistan is the only solution.”
And a group of students from Surrey’s Khalsa school wore vests with crossed assault rifles on the back and the name of their martial arts club.
Others in the crowd wore shirts with “ International Sikh Youth Federation” printed on them. The federation is a banned terrorist group in Canada.
Former ISYF international leader, Satinderpal Singh Gill, is now on the Dasmesh executive and accepted a B. C. government plaque commemorating the day from former MLA Dr. Gulzar Singh Cheema.
Morton said Thursday that Campbell has attended Vaisakhi celebrations for years to show his support for the community members at large who attend.
“ Had he known — or if he knows in the future — that there are any individuals or groups that have any links . . . to terrorist organizations or organizations that are considered illegal in Canada, he would not have any involvement whatsoever and would not be attending,” Morton said. He said the premier was upset to learn about the float honouring Parmar, who was killed in India in 1992.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man convicted in the Air India bombing, told B. C. Supreme Court that Parmar asked him to build the bombs used in the plot. Parmar founded the Babbar Khalsa, which is now also a designated terrorist group.
“ Absolutely, he was disturbed,” Morton said of Campbell. “ It is a very large parade, as you know, and he had no idea that this float was there.”
The International Sikh Youth Federation is a banned terrorist group in Canada.