Pre­mier didn’t know pa­rade would in­clude salute to ter­ror sus­pect: aide

Vancouver Sun - - Westcoast News - BY KIM BOLAN

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.

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