As you know, I recently made my first bilateral visit to India. On a professional level, it provided me valuable insight into the potential of the Canada-India relationship in a number of areas vital to our long‑term success and prosperity.
The visit also brought home for me personally the extent to which our two countries’ growing relationship is built upon a strong foundation of shared values. This values‑based and principled partnership was reinforced in meeting after meeting. I think this is, in no small measure, because both our countries have embraced pluralistic and democratic traditions.
Indeed, our government recognizes the many important contributions of Canadians of Indian heritage, including our vibrant and diverse Sikh community. For over 100 years, Canadians of Sikh faith have worked hard and contributed to our country in all fields, including through military service. That the Sikh community has preserved, grown, and succeeded despite the challenges the community faced is a testament to the strength and determination of men and women of Sikh background across Canada. I would note, in particular, the contributions to public life of Parliamentarians of Sikh heritage, including the Honourable Tim Uppal, appointed to Cabinet by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in May 2011. Prime Minister Harper, the Cabinet and indeed all Canadians benefit from his many talents and considered perspectives.
Returning to my trip, my dealings with the Indian government made very clear that both our countries are committed partners in the global fight against terrorism. This is a fight which I have said repeatedly is the great struggle of our generation. I told my hosts that our government would do everything in its power (and, perhaps obviously, within the limits of Canada’s Constitution) to curb the activities of terrorist groups on Canadian soil. My comments, while well intentioned, seem to have been taken out of context by some.
I write today to correct the record.
I want to make absolutely clear that at no point during my visit did I make generalized assertions about any community in Canada, including but not limited to Canadian Sikhs.
On the contrary, in any discussion of terrorism and violent extremism with the Indian government, I very deliberately distinguished between communities who have a legitimate, democratic right to pursue political causes and those small groups of radicals who may, regrettably, embrace violence or choose criminal activity to pursue their alleged goals.
All Canadians expect our government to make this distinction, and also to do our part to fight terrorism and other forms of violent extremism. In Canada’s case, this includes cooperating with other countries to aggressively combat terrorism in all its forms.
Canada takes its international obligations and its domestic responsibilities in this regard extremely seriously. Canada also promotes and protects freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. These are not mutually exclusive—something not lost on me on this trip, or any other for that matter.
I appreciate the opportunity to correct any impression to the contrary.
John Baird, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs