Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Most political observers were shaking their heads when Prime Minister Stephen Harper attacked newly minted Liberal Member of Parliament Navdeep Bains. How low could the prime minister go, railed opposition members. The prime minister had viscerally demonstrated to what depths he was willing to sink in search of the almighty vote. Mounting calls for an apology went unheeded as Harper laid the ground for a new debate on the terror bill. Harper succeeded in setting a trap that everyone fell into.
The anti-terror debate was about extending unused provisions of a bill, which could present an abuse of power. Syrian treatment of Maher Arar and the current Chinese incarceration of Canadian Huseyin Celil have raised questions about the treatment of Canadian citizens in a post-9/11 security climate -- and the extension of the anti-terror laws reinforced those concerns.
When the previous Liberal government introduced anti-terror limitations, a five-year sunset clause was included to guarantee a review of dubious legal remedies, including preventative arrests. In extending those legal provisions, Harper could have run the risk of appearing too close to George W. Bush. Instead, the debate is all about the Liberals. By throwing the House into turmoil, the prime minister muddied the waters by casting Liberals in the role of protecting terrorists. His House attack was consistent with an ongoing campaign to portray the Conservatives as a law and order party that will protect Canadians at home and abroad, reinforcing expected Tory themes for the next election.
If, in the process, Harper promotes the image of Opposition Leader Stephane Dion as weak, that too meets Harper's political objectives. Exaggerated reports of Liberal party splits on the terror bill were designed to do just that. Dion was already under attack by negative Tory advertising before the prime minister tried to link him to terrorism.

Harper claims he was only repeating the contents of a published news story by Kim Bolan, an award-winning Vancouver Sun journalist, who last year penned the definitive Air India story entitled Loss of Faith: How the Air India Bombers Got Away with Murder. Last week she wrote a story claiming a relative of Bains was on the interviewee list for a potential Air India follow-up. She also linked Bains to a block of 250 Grit leadership votes that went to Dion via Gerard Kennedy. (That vote block was actually split between Sikhs and Muslims.)
Harper immediately picked up on the story, attacking the Liberals as soft on crime and terror. As his negative Dion ads showed, Harper is willing to run the gauntlet in return for future electoral gains. He is banking on the fact that most Canadians consider this odious approach a normal part of the rough-and-tumble of politics. Harper is also working hard to gain Sikh support in the lead up to a tight federal election.
The Sikh community is probably the most politically active minority group in the country. Like any other group, their views are not homogeneous. They run the political spectrum from those who support separation from India to those who don't. In the past decade, the number of Sikhs supporting separation -- which was at the root of the Air India bombings -- has waned dramatically as their attention focuses on Canadian politics. With six Sikh MPs, from a community estimated at 278,000, they had sufficient influence in the last Liberal leadership to help determine the outcome. Sikhs also hold the balance of power in up to a dozen ridings across Canada.
Harper managed to cobble together his first minority with some Sikh support drawn largely from gay marriage opponents. He needs to do everything possible to build on that support since, historically and in current Parliamentary representation, Sikhs are generally Liberal voters. Harper's antics this week were deliberately aimed at consolidating a fragile Sikh coalition. By tying Liberals to a failed Air India inquiry, Harper hopes to get the Sikh majority behind his party. Ironically, current inquiry problems are actually linked to a resistance by some government agencies to release pertinent documents.

Harper's antics could galvanize the entire community against him. Despite the recent polling frenzy, Conservatives are still less popular than when they formed a minority government. They have a long way to go to reach a majority. Consolidation comes before growth. This week's ugly performance in the House was a deliberate, albeit risky, attempt at consolidation.
Shiela Copps
Edmonton Sun

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stepped in to defuse a bitter dispute over top secret government documents that could lead to the collapse of the Air-India Kanishka inquiry. On Monday, in hard-hitting language, retired Supreme Court judge John Major, who is leading the 1985 Kanishka inquiry, had threatened to close down the crash investigation unless the federal government released thousands of secret documents. Harper ordered national security officials Tuesday to look into the whole issue and swiftly expedite the investigation, the Star newspaper reported.
Major expressed frustration with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the department of foreign affairs for citing national security in denying information to the inquiry commission. "Let me be clear that I have instructed, and it is my understanding, that Justice Major has been given unedited all documents that related to the Air India inquiry, " Harper said. He also expressed his surprise at the news of Major's frustration. Harper also downplayed the amount of information involved in the dispute.
"What is at issue is in about 10 percent of the cases a dispute about what by law can and cannot be made public. I have instructed my national security adviser to meet with people in the various departments to impose a non-restrictive interpretation of the law and to expedite resolution of this dispute as quickly as possible," he said.


Indian American author Mayank Chhaya, who has written a biography of the Dalai Lama, wears his iconoclasm on his sleeve. Recently he floored a group of MIT students with the remark, "I have rejected even nihilism". Yet Chhaya's cynical detachment, seldom concealed, has stood him in good stead as an author. He has written two biographies - the most recent one an authorised biography of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. An earlier biography of technology evangelist Sam Pitroda was a bestseller in India. Man, monk, mystic will be published in India in February, followed in March by releases in the US, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Russia.
Random House is the US publisher. Chronicling the life of a spiritual head can be akin to walking on eggshells. But reviewers have been fulsome in their approval. "The end product is balanced - neither debunking nor hagiographic, but taking a Buddhist-style Middle Way toward its subject, even though the author is not himself a Buddhist," said the bible of the publishing industry, Publishers Weekly, in a starred review. Booklist noted "Chhaya carefully presents diverse viewpoints of the Tibet-China conflict while simultaneously drawing an insightful portrait of this enigmatic personage. "Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu has called the book an "engaging portrait".
"Here was this exotic man the world had come to know about," said Chhaya of his first interaction with the Dalai Lama in 1997, "but there was no biography of his that would make him accessible to the uninitiated reader. I wanted to know the man behind the persona."What followed was two years of extensive interviewing, during which Chhaya spent several hours with the Dalai Lama in one-on-one meetings. "We talked about everything - from the Tibetan problem to his Nobel Prize, to his views on celibacy and sexuality," Chhaya said. The greatest aspect of the Dalai Lama's personality, said Chhaya, is his ability to reach out to everyone.
"What is most striking about him is his sense of familiarity in any surrounding, and his ability to reach out to anyone without any intermediary. If I had to describe him in one sentence, I would say he is deceptively profound with a charming sense of humour."Over the years, the Dalai Lama has become a larger than life figure. Several books have been written about him, including his autobiography "Freedom in exile". In 1999, legendary director Martin Scorsese made a film on him - "In search of Kundun" - and this year has seen the release of another documentary "Dalai Lama Renaissance" with a narration by actor Harrison Ford.Nevertheless, Chhaya said his book brought a unique perspective.
"What differentiates this book from others is that it attempts to look at the person of the Dalai Lama from three vantage points - of man, monk and mystic. It attempts to bring this fascinating figure of historic proportions within the grasp of the uninitiated reader," Chhaya said."I believe this is the first definitive biography of the Dalai Lama's life in exile which also puts the Tibetan cause within a modern context and tries to assess its future in the context of the new geo-political realities. The book attempts to make the highly complex issue of Tibet accessible to those who do not generally evince an interest in history," he explained.
Besides interviewing him, Chhaya followed the Dalai Lama's lectures whenever he could. "His stature has only grown. If earlier there were hundreds attending his lectures, now you have to book a stadium. He has emerged as the world's conscience-keeper," he said. Despite numerous films on the spiritual leader, Chhaya is not quite convinced if any of them catches the essence of his persona. "Many of them manage to capture the quintessence, but it is possible that many of them employ cinematic devices to dramatise certain events. The fact that the Dalai Lama's life has been so intrinsically dramatic lends itself to great cinema. I do not recall having seen anything that captures his incredible life so far in a manner of great cinema," he said.
Many young Tibetans today do not see eye to eye with their leader on the wisdom of the 'middle path', Chhaya said. "Many young Tibetan exiles, who were born outside Tibet and have not experienced the kind of hardship and struggle that the older generation has had to endure, display impatience with the Dalai Lama's non-violent middle path approach," the author noted." Although they uniformly respect the Dalai Lama, they believe in some sort of armed uprising. The Dalai Lama has been steadfast in his resolve against any form of violence because he sees the middle path as the only way out.
"The Dalai Lama has also, rather surprisingly, described himself as a half Marxist, half Buddhist. "His fascination with Marxism stemmed from the fact that as a philosophy, it sought equality and justice for all. In that sense it is very similar to Buddhism," said Chhaya.Even to those who are not his followers, there is no denying the Dalai Lama's personal magnetism that Chhaya can attest to. "Call it charisma, call it glow, but the man stands out. One can see why people are so taken up with him."


A Sikh has been given the 2006 lifetime achievement award in volunteering by the New South Wales (NSW) government. Bawa Singh Jagdev became the first Sikh to receive the prestigious award for volunteering which was handed to him by NSW Speaker John Aquilina at the NSW Parliament recently. Jagdev who arrived in Australia in 1975 from Kenya was among the first few to set up Sikh Council of Australia (SCA). The council provides a platform for Sikhs in Australia to liase with government and non-government agencies, according to Indianlink, an ethnic Indian newspaper.
Jagdev defended the kirpan that was threatened by the knife legislation passed by the NSW Government in 1997. He was instrumental in convincing the then NSW premier Bob Carr to amend the legislation to allow an average Sikh to carry the dagger. The 72-year-old former lecturer at TAFE, an adult education organisation in Australia, said SCA plans to build an old age home shortly. This will be in addition to the already existing two Punjabi language schools.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Surrey: It started sometime last week. Mukhtiar Panghali suddenly and abruptly on January 29 2007 refused to let Manjit's family members meet their grand daughter. Manjit's family members have been given access rights to the child, wherein every Monday they could meet her for a couple of hours. But last to last Monday Manjit's father, mother and sister came home disappointed. Jasmine Bamra (Manjit's Sister) then went to the court again.
On Feburary 2 2007, I happened to be at the Surrey Provincial Court covering some other case when I saw Mukhtiar Panghali. The matter was not clear to me then. But when I tried to talk to him, he backed off saying "no comments." His lawyer, who I didn't even want to talk to, flared up and was very rude. I keep meeting lawyers every now and then, but none have shown such attitude. I then spoke to Jasmine and she explained the whole story to me.
Both the families, Mukhtiar, his brother and sister-in-law, and Jasmine, her husband, father and mother met again at the court on Tuesday Jan 13. Mukhtiar claims that his daughter hurt herself when she was visiting her mother's family. And, Jasmine says that it never happened. The judge tried his best to resolve the matter to avoid a trial by suggesting supervised visiting. He (judge) suggested that an independent agency ComCare can be present at all time when the child visits her maternal grand parents, but Mr. Mukhtiar declined all suggestions and asked his lawyer to call for a trial, which is on Friday, Feb 16.
This time, there were other journalists as well from Province, CTV, Global, and Channel M. After the hearing all of us (reporters) waited for hours for Mukhtiar to come out of the court to take his comment. But he kept hiding. Finally when he did come out, he straightaway walked to his car where his brother and sister in law were sitting. He was bombarded with questions from the media, he didn’t utter a word, didn't even look at any of us, bumped into CTV's reporter, sat in the car and took off.
Jasmine later told me that Mukhtiar is now planning to shift to Victoria for good.
At the trial on Feb 16, both the parties will present witnesses. Muktiar's family will try to prove that the child was injured and Manjit's family will try to prove the opposite.

Friday, February 9, 2007


“Boldly rips away a tapestry of lies and cover ups … a first rate detective story.” - Hollywood Reporter

“Brilliant. Moving. Relevant .. Surprises you at every turn ... A must see film.” - Mira Nair

“Absolutely love Amu. A thoughtful and important film with a universal theme." - Acclaimed at the Toronto and Berlin film festivals, the internationally award winning film Amu opens across Canada starting with Toronto on February 16. The US release is slated for April. This independent feature film needs your support. We need you to make the opening weekend a success.
Check out the trailer and more at www.amuthefilm.com and please send this email far and wide.

Cineplex Carlton (Downtown), AMC Kennedy Commons (Scarborough), Empire Empress Walk (North York), Empire Square One (Missisauga), Woodbine (Hindi dubbed version)

Granville 7 (Downtown), Cineplex Strawberry Hill (Surrey)

AMC Forum 22 (Downtown)

Winnipeg, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary etc. will be posted on the website by Feb 25. For further information: Publicist, Eric Ball – 519 740 1266 Jonai Productions, Toronto - 416 428 2039; Los Angeles – 323 655 1276

What starts out seeming like a standard "back to the roots" story, becomes a mystery of both personal and political implications in Shonali Bose’s feature debut, Amu.
Amu is the journey of Kajori Roy, a 21-year-old Indian American woman who has lived in the US since the age of 3. After graduating from UCLA Kaju goes to India to visit her relatives. There she meets Kabir, a college student from an upper class family who is disdainful of Kaju’s wide-eyed wonder at discovering the "real India". Undeterred Kaju visits the slums, crowded markets and roadside cafes of Delhi. In one slum she is struck by an odd feeling of déjà vu.
Soon after she starts having nightmares. When Kabir discovers that Kaju was an adopted child, he gets drawn into her personal mystery. Meanwhile Kaju’s adoptive mother – Keya Roy, a single parent and civil rights activist in LA, arrives unannounced in Delhi. She is shocked to discover that Kaju has been visiting the slums. Although Kaju mistakes her mother’s response to a typical Indian over-protectiveness – Keya’s fears are deeper rooted. Slowly Kaju starts piecing together what happened to her birth parents.
Mother and daughter clash as Kaju discovers she has been lied to her whole life. What was the truth? Why was it suppressed? As Kaju and Kabir undertake this quest they both discover their families involvement with a man made tragedy of immense proportions which took place twenty years before in the capital city of India: the massacre of thousands of people of the Sikh faith. In a searing climax the young people are forced to confront the reality of the past and how it affects the present.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Surrey: An Indo-Canadian woman was reportedly killed and her body was found at her residence by family members. Thirty three year old woman was married and had three kids. Surprisingly, her kids were home when when family members arrived this morning and discovered her body. The home is on 125th street between 58th and 60th avenue. The case has been handed over to Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and the search started this afternoon. Corporal Dale Carr with the IHIT says the woman's husband, three kids, and extended family members live in the home. Police do not have a suspect, and they are not releasing the cause of death. They are questioning the woman's family and neighbours.

Sunday, February 4, 2007


A small town in Canada - H’rouxville - has reportedly asked those who wear niqabs or carry kirpans (a ceremonial weapon carried by the Sikhs) to stay away and not settle there. The town has a meagre population of 1338. A sign at the town’s entrance reads: "H’rouxville welcomes you. Unless, that is, you plan on stoning a woman to death, sending your children to school with a kirpan or covering your face other than on Halloween.
"The town council of H’rouxville has adopted a declaration of ‘norms’ that the would-be immigrants need to be aware of before they settle there. Among them, it is forbidden to stone women or burn them with acid. Children cannot carry weapons to school, including kirpans, even though the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Sikhs can carry kirpans in schools. The declaration says that female police officers in H’rouxville, 165 km from Montreal, can arrest male suspects, and women are free to drive, dance and make decisions on their own.
"We’re telling people who we are. I asked myself, ‘How is it that these people can ask for such things? "And the only possible answer is that these people do not know who we are," The Mail quoted H’rouxville councillor Andr’ Drouin as saying.He added that the more accommodations are made for minorities, the greater the divide. "One of these days you will have (many divided) groups in Canada and groups in Canada, or groups in any country, doesn’t make a country."

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Representatives of Punjab's political parties are busy campaigning and fundraising in British Columbia among the sizeable Indo-Canadian community, especially Sikhs, ahead of the Feb 13 polls in Punjab. The party members are focusing on Surrey where there is a large Indo-Canadian population. Although Indo-Canadians are not allowed to vote in Indian elections, but the campaign leaders are hoping to influence them enough so that they are able to sway votes back home among relatives.
Among the parties campaigning in Surrey is the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar). Its leader Simranjit Singh Mann attracted more than 700 Indo-Canadians last week at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall when he gave a speech via webcam from India. Indo-Canadian Paul Brar, whose father-in-law is one of the candidates for the elections, organised a rally of more than 100 people in Surrey. "They (Indo-Canadians) can affect the outcome of the elections because sometimes the victory is decided by 1,000-2,000 votes, and a call from here is very important. People do listen to people from Canada and they vote that way," Brar said.
"It's not legal for political parties in India to accept contributions from a foreign source. But he said Indian citizens living abroad can make political donations," according to Ashok Kumar, consul general of India in Vancouver.