Canadian authorities on Sunday withdrew the permission for the proposed Khalistan referendum event that was scheduled for September 10 at the Tamanawis Secondary School in the town of Surrey in British Columbia. This significant decision comes as a response to widespread unease within the community.
Ritinder Matthew, the associate director of communication for the Surrey school board, explained the reason behind the cancellation, stating, “Earlier today, our district terminated a community rental agreement for one of our schools due to a violation of our rental terms. Promotional materials associated with the event prominently featured images of our school juxtaposed with images of weaponry.”
“Despite our repeated attempts to address this issue, the event organisers failed to remove these alarming visuals, and the materials continued to circulate throughout Surrey and on various social media platforms.”The school’s hall had been reserved by an Ontario resident for what was originally described as a “community event.”
She went on to emphasise, “As a school district, our foremost mission is to provide high-quality education and a secure environment for our students and school communities. All individuals renting our facilities are expected to adhere to these standards.”
Matthew added, “Our decision is not an endorsement or criticism of any particular political stance.”
The local community took action against the event after organisers, affiliated with Sikhs For Justice, led by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, displayed posters of Talwinder Singh Parmar, the mastermind behind the 1985 Air India Flight 182 bombing, along with various weapons.
However, a security expert told India Today, “This must be seen in light of the G20 happening in India and Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, is set to attend the two-day G20 summit in New Delhi on September 9-10. Though the decision has been taken at the level of the school board of trustees, a nudge from the government cannot be ruled out.”
This is besides the fact that the Sikh referendum has been kept on September 10 to coincide with the G20. Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, founder of Sikh Forum for Justice (SFJ) and a declared terrorist by Indian authorities, has initiated a campaign aimed at tarnishing India’s image in anticipation of the upcoming G20 summit.
Speaking to India Today, a retired Punjab Police officer involved in counter-insurgency efforts in the state, commended the move and said, “This is a laudable effort to use the law of the land to hold the local administration and government accountable.”
Furthermore, officials noted that this was a form of “lawfare”, an attempt to utilise legal means to deter such elements. It has also been revealed that the school gymnasium, intended for use by pro-Khalistan factions, is in close proximity to the Gurudwara Nanak in Surrey.
Subsequently, some of the pro-Khalistan elements issued a statement asserting their unwavering commitment to the referendum, despite its cancellation, reaffirming their intention to proceed with the scheduled vote on September 10.