Rex Murphy shines spotlight on Liberal leadership controversy
On 28 June, 2007, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation featured a segment by Terry Milewski that underscored the discomforting relationship between Canadian politicians and extremist (often terrorist) groups.
Members of all three of Canada's political parties have been known to have their brushes with these extremist groups (the NDP's El-Farouk Khaki marched in a pro-Hezbollah demonstration, Jean Chretien was once photographed with child soldiers at a Tamil Tigers fuction, and Conservative MP Jason Kenney once addressed a rally in support of an Iranian terrorist group).
Milewski's segment underlined, in particular, a recent controversy surrounding the Liberal party, and one of its MPs seeming links to Sikh separatist groups, possibly including those responsible for the Air India bombing.
At the 2006 leadership convention, when Bob Rae gave a speech mentioning the Air India bombing, a word-of-mouth campaign was seemingly organized against him by Sikh delegates at the convention. "My wife was approached by a delegate who happened to be a Sikh, not supporting Bob Rae and not knowing who my wife was," Dosanjh explained. "He said 'well, you shouldn't vote for Bob', because Bob expressed the issue of violence about Air India in his speech."
Rae's report on Air India identified Sikh separatists as being responsible for the bombing.
"It baffles me that you have delegates on the floor of a major political party (to which I belong) who do not want a reference to Air India in a candidate's speech," Dosanjh added.
When Gerard Kennedy lent his support to Stephane Dion, many analysts credited Mississauga-Brampton South MP Navdeep Singh Bains for putting the new Dion/Kennedy coalition over the top with the 250 Sikh delegates he had under his influence.
When Dion lead the Liberals in opposition to renewing the anti-terror act, this raised serious questions about Bains' father in law, Darshan Singh Saini, who was a potential witness to be called before a judicial investigative hearing being sheduled by the RCMP.
When the Liberals led the opposition parties in defeat of the anti-terror act provisions that allowed for such hearings, RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass announced, "while I do not dispute that the vote on this critical issue involved perhaps valid considerations beyond the Air India investigation, without a doubt, it represents a serious and damaging blow to the interests of the families in this case."
"The interests of the families in this case" being finding important answers regarding the bombing.
The Liberals insisted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was "smearing" Bains. Stephane Dion insisted that his actions hadn't damaged the investigation at all. Yet, his actions also allow Darshan Singh Saini -- a former spokesman for Babba Khalsa Panthak, a Sikh terrorist group -- to refuse to testify at any Air India inquiry.
In fairness, it should be considered that Saini -- and Bains -- might have nothing at all to hide. Yet, Canadians are still waiting for definitive answers more than 22 years after the most deadly terror attack in Canada's history.
The opposition of Dion -- who won the Liberal leadership with significant support from Bains -- to the anti-terror act (which protects Saini, Bains' father-in-law) may be entirely coincidental. Unfortunately, because Saini cannot be compelled to testify at any type of hearing, and seems unlikely to testify voluntarily, Canadians can never truly be certain.
And while all of Canada's political parties have, from time to time, cozied up to extremist groups in exchange for political support (one has to especially wonder about support for Sikh separatists despite most of Canada's opposition to Quebecois separatists), the controversy circling Stephane Dion, Navdeep Singh Bains, Darshan Singh Saini and the anti-terror act stand as one of the few examples where such relationships have impacted public policy.
Without such answers, this controversy could be relegated to being one of the unsolved mysteries of Canadian politics.