NDP leader calls for investigation into hoax, arrest of Sikh men

·2 min read
First responders lift tape blocking off streets around Parliament Hill as they responded to reports of a possible threat, which turned out to be unfounded. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)
First responders lift tape blocking off streets around Parliament Hill as they responded to reports of a possible threat, which turned out to be unfounded. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wants an investigation launched immediately to find out who was behind an apparent hoax that resulted in two Sikh men being arrested and Parliament Hill placed on lockdown last weekend.

Police sources told CBC News they received a tip, which first came to the Canada Border Services Agency, indicating members of an extremist group were headed to a protest with explosives in tow.

After an investigation, the Ottawa Police Service said no public safety threat was identified, but Manveer Singh and Parminder Singh told The Canadian Press that police arrested and questioned them, then apologized and released them.

The two men were organizers of an event by Members of the United Front of Sikhs Canada to commemorate the 1984 Sikh massacre in India.

"Why was it that two Sikh men with no antecedence, no evidence of any threat to Canadians were treated with such severity?" Singh said Thursday.

"There's clearly something going on here that needs to be evaluated."

Conservative MP Tim Uppal, who in 2011 became the first Turban-wearing Sikh appointed to cabinet, also questioned where the information came from.

"It sets a dangerous precedent for the future," said Uppal. "If you start to believe everything, then the really important stuff is going to get missed, so I think it's something that should be looked into definitely."

Singh, whose calls for accountability echoed those made by some in Ottawa's Sikh community earlier this week, contrasted the police response to the convoy protests that took place in Ottawa for several weeks this past winter.

"This is something very serious. We want to understand why this happened, what steps were taken to get to that point, and why police reacted in that way," Singh said, adding police "overreacted in a very irresponsible way."

In a memo to the Ottawa Police Services Board, interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell said officers acted in good faith and are aware of the impact of the investigation on the city and those arrested.

Police reaching out to community for feedback

The memo said police have reached out to the leadership of Ottawa's Sikh community and will meet with them later this week to discuss the police response.

The memo said once the RCMP investigation is complete, Ottawa police will fully review the incident and the feedback from the community to look at how police can improve responses to similar incidents.

Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press
Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

Inderjit Singh Sambi of the Ottawa Sikh Society says the incident was painful to hear and read about, and he worries "the Sikh image is going to be all maligned."

"There's clearly a horrible standard, a double standard," he said.

Sambi said Ottawa police have reached out to him about their response to the incident.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting