Terror group founder rallying behind paralyzed refugee claimant
CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A key figure in the campaign to keep a paralyzed refugee claimant in Canada is the founder of the banned terrorist organization International Sikh Youth Federation, who himself won refugee status in 1998.
Harpal Singh Nagra, who has used several aliases, is now the president of the South Asian Human Rights Group, which is fighting to keep Laibar Singh in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Mr. Nagra's link to an organization banned by Ottawa in 2003 has not prevented him from getting meetings with federal and provincial politicians about the plight of Singh.
The deportation to India of Mr. Singh, a failed refugee claimant who suffered an aneurysm after coming to Canada, was halted after a massive demonstration at Vancouver International Airport on Monday.
Mr. Nagra was one of three community representatives who met with Canada Border Services Agency officials at the airport and has put out several news releases about Mr. Singh's case since last summer.
Mr. Nagra's name surfaced at the Air India inquiry in Ottawa just last week.
Bob Solvason, a retired RCMP staff sergeant, testified he investigated Nagra on allegations he brought a Sikh extremist into Canada on someone else's passport 24 days before the June 1985 Air India bombings.
Nagra was convicted but won a new trial on appeal. The second trial hasn't been held.
Solvason told Air India commissioner John Major he believed the RCMP dropped the ball by not putting more resources into the Nagra investigation at the time.
The person who was brought to Canada from the Philippines, Pushpinder Singh, ended up travelling to Toronto with bombing mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar on the weekend of June 8 and 9, 1985, according to exhibits entered at the Air India inquiry.
Pushpinder Singh, who is no relation to the paralyzed man fighting to stay in Canada, also attended a meeting on June 12, 1985, with other International Sikh Youth Federation members, the Air India inquiry heard.
One person at the meeting allegedly criticized him, saying: “You have not killed an ambassador or a consul yet,” and Singh reportedly replied: “You will see. In two weeks we'll show the community.”
Border service officials did not return phone calls on Wednesday about the status of Laibar Singh's deportation or the involvement of Nagra in the current campaign.
Mr. Nagra did not return phone calls.
Jean Tessier, of the federal public safety ministry, said he would not comment on anyone involved in the Laibar Singh campaign.
“We are not in a position to provide an opinion about any individuals who may or may not support Mr. Laibar Singh,” Mr. Tessier said.
Mr. Nagra, who has also used the names Harjinderpal Singh Nagra and Harpal Singh Ghuman, arrived in Canada in February 1985 and eventually filed a refugee claim, according to documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun.
He won his case in October 1998 when the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled he could face persecution if deported to India because of his involvement in the separatist struggle for an independent Sikh nation called Khalistan.
But the immigration department appealed the board's ruling, saying Mr. Nagra was a leader of the All India Sikh Student Federation in India, which was responsible for “directing a campaign of violence, including murder, assassination and the use of motorcycle hit squads.”
It said the militant activities of the federation qualified as crimes against humanity, making Nagra ineligible as a refugee.
In 1999, Mr. Nagra won again when the Federal Court accepted his claim that he left the International Sikh Youth Federation in May 1986 when members got arrested for shooting a visiting Punjabi cabinet minister on Vancouver Island.
He also said he was discouraged when a member of his group was charged with the 1985 beating of Ujjal Dosanjh, who was then a community activist critical of the use of violence by some Sikh extremists and is now a Liberal MP.
Laibar Singh, meanwhile, remains at a New Westminster Sikh temple being cared for by members of the community who have pledged to support him and pay for all his medical expenses in Canada.
Balwant Singh Gill, president of Surrey's Guru Nanak temple, said Wednesday that everyone in the Sikh community is behind the disabled man regardless of traditional divisions or political affiliations.
And Mr. Gill said Laibar Singh should not suffer even if some of those involved in the campaign to help him have controversial links.
“This poor guy should be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Gill said. “He can't afford to pay for the hospital if he is sent back to India.