Those of us in the intelligence community would often wonder what it would be like to have an NDP government calling the shots. Generally speaking, we did not see it is a good thing for Canada’s spies. Whether it was uncertainty over the need to have intelligence services at all or some misplaced sense that human rights and intelligence were mutually exclusive, we never got a warm and fuzzy feeling when we mused about an NDP PM and/or an NDP Minister of Public Safety. Luckily (for us in that community) it has never come to pass. Phew!
Well, the new leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, has given those of us in the ‘business’ one more reason to quiver over the possibility of an NDP regime in this country. Whatever you feel about Mr. Singh and his character/policies – and I am decidedly neutral although his performance on the CBC programme As It Happens (AIH) on March 15 was indeed cringe-worthy (you might want to listen to it to see what I mean) – it is becoming crystal clear, at least to me, that the wannabe head honcho either has no idea what terrorism is, or does get it and doesn’t think it is a problem to worry about. Given that counter terrorism happens to be one of the Canadian intelligence community’s #1 priorities, this uncertainty should give us pause to wonder what is going on with Mr. Singh.
In the wake of the Justin Does Delhi/Sikh extremism fiasco we now have the Jagmeet dalliance with Sikh terrorism, courtesy of appearances at public events where the preponderance of Sikh terrorists was bald-faced. As if that were not bad enough, Mr. Singh has tied himself in knots to avoid answering simple questions (“Do you support the use of violence in the furtherance of the campaign to establish an independent Sikh homeland in India?”) and has come out sounding like any other politician: dishonest, mealy-mouthed and unable to waver from a script. You really have to listen to his exchange with AIH host Carol Off to appreciate how tortuous the NDP leader’s answers were. So much for the new, young face of Canadian federal politics (shades of how far PM Trudeau has fallen). Frankly, I have no idea what the good Mr. Singh believes anymore.
The head of the federal NDP party has gone to great lengths not to take a position on the issue of whether Sikh extremists have a right to use violence to achieve their goals. Yes, he has categorically rejected the use of terrorism and for that he must be congratulated, although to be honest that position is a no-brainer. And he rightly notes the aura of suffering and pain stretching back to the Indian government-Sikh temple conflict in 1984, a series of events that led to widespread slaughter, and yet he avoids talking about why the Indian army took the decision it did to invade the Holy Temple in Amritsar (Sikh extremists had been stockpiling weapons). He keeps saying that it is ‘complicated’ in his refusal to be nailed down to a simple response: today’s Globe and Mail op-ed provides little clarity on his position.
As much as Mr. Singh’s attachment to the Canadian Sikh community is laudable and understandable, it nevertheless also points to the dangers of pandering to diaspora politics (and even there I would like to think that the vast majority of Canadian Sikhs reject the resort to violence to get a homeland). True, politicians do all kinds of things to get votes and this may be nothing more insidious than that. Still, I get nervous when a man who wants to represent all Canadians, not just Sikh Canadians, cannot take a firmer stand on terrorism.
Mr. Singh, allow me to give you some advice based on my 30+ in intelligence and almost 20 years in counter terrorism. Repeat after me: “Terrorism is unacceptable and I will not support, remain silent or ignore Canadians of any background who advocate it”. There. Was that so hard?
In the end I cannot vote for a man who does not 100% reject terrorism by all sides. I feel that my colleagues in the intelligence community, past and present, probably feel the same.