Is there a Sikh “terror camp” in BC?

The Canadian public were made aware of a serious allegation this week that a Sikh resident in BC was running a “terror camp” near Mission, a town of around 35,000 on the Fraser River east of Vancouver.  The story came from an article in an Indian newspaper and claimed that Hardeep Nijjar was the “operational head” of the Khalistan Terror Force responsible for training Canadian Sikhs on how to fire Ak-47s to be used in terrorist attacks in India.  Mr. Nijjar originally denied the charge, saying he was a simple plumber trying to make a living, but then admitted that he was an activist merely working for the rights of Indian Sikhs, telling the Prime Minister that he was being persecuted by India.

This affair is of course worrisome as all stories about terrorism can be at first blush.  The question remains, however, wherein lies the truth?

We may learn more in the coming days and weeks, but there are a few things that stand out in the immediate aftermath of this story.

Firstly, is the Indian government running intelligence operations on Canadian soil?  It sure seems to know a lot about Mr. Nijjar’s alleged activities in BC.  If it were that would not be surprising as it is clear that other nations have sent their spies here to monitor some in the diasporic communities.  Should India not have made its concerns clear to Canadian authorities (i.e. CSIS and the RCMP)? They claim to have done so and are now seeking Mr. Nijjar’s extradition.  India has long felt that we in Canada do not take Sikh violent extremism seriously.  That is patently untrue, at least historically, and may point more to India’s obsession with the Sikh issue than actual threat.  Nevertheless it is true that our security and law enforcement agencies have been forced to divert resources away from threats like Sikh extremism to the bigger and more immediate Islamist extremism phenomenon.

On the other hand, as I have written before, the threat from within the Sikh communities in Canada from those that see violence as a legitimate tactic to gain an independent Khalistan never disappeared.  Yes, the numbers of violent extremists are probably not as large as they once were, but we have to acknowledge that grievances unaddressed can lead to future terrorism.  As it is unlikely that an independent Sikh homeland is a possibility any time soon, it is probable that a tiny margin will resort to killing to get their way.

What do we make of Mr. Nijjar?  He is apparently not a “simple plumber” but rather a vocal advocate for Sikh rights, a “political activist” and Sikh nationalist.  There is nothing illegal or problematic in activism or nationalism.  These activities only become an issue when violence  is seen as a solution.  I have no idea whether Mr. Nijjar supports violence (he says he does not) but I do know that others in BC did at one point and that some probably still do.

Canada has been asked to extradite Mr. Nijjar back to his native India.  The government will have to weigh the evidence India has and compare that with anything that CSIS or the RCMP may know about him (assuming that either agency has him under investigation, which is unknown).  If there is enough information to lay charges here, we should do so.  If there is not, the decision to send him back will be have to be taken carefully and will take some time.

We do not want to feed the idea that Canada is a haven for terrorists bent on striking their homelands out of a sense of grievance, real or perceived.  At the same time, everyone has a presumption of innocence.  We do not act on allegation but rather evidence.  Let the system do what it needs to do before any action is taken.


By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

2 replies on “Is there a Sikh “terror camp” in BC?”

Hello Mr. Gurski,
I became aware of you after watching your interview with Vaush where you shared many views that I would agree with. Which intrigued me into visiting your website and discovering more of your views specifically on Sikh Extremism. You have written several articles with respect to Sikh human rights activists which I admire as I am one. But you have missed some very crucial points, many of which can be attributed to the complexity of this topic and I can understand that. Even though I am not an expert myself due to the complexity, I believe I can still highlight certain points you have missed which would help deepen your knowledge.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I am hoping for your response.


Prabhnoorjit Singh Hans

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