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Sikh activists on Canada's no-fly list lose appeal; court cites 'reasonable grounds' for terror concerns

Reported by:  PTC News Desk  Edited by:  Annesha Barua -- June 21st 2024 03:41 PM
Sikh activists on Canada's no-fly list lose appeal; court cites 'reasonable grounds' for terror concerns

Sikh activists on Canada's no-fly list lose appeal; court cites 'reasonable grounds' for terror concerns

PTC News Desk: Two Sikh extremists' request to be removed from Canada's no-fly list has been denied by a Canadian judge, which stated that there are "reasonable grounds" to believe they will endanger transportation security or use air travel to perpetrate terrorism.

The Canadian Press news agency reported from Vancouver on Thursday that the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal filed by Bhagat Singh Brar and Parvkar Singh Dulai this week. The two had lost a constitutional challenge to their no-fly designations under Canada's Secure Air Travel Act.

In 2018, the two were barred from boarding planes in Vancouver. According to the court, if there are "reasonable grounds to suspect they will threaten transportation," the statute gives the public safety minister the authority to prohibit persons from flying.

"The appellants attempted to take off at one point. It is ruled that they were unable to. "They were on the list and the minister had directed that they not fly."

Based on classified security intelligence, the appeal court concluded that the minister "had reasonable grounds to suspect that the appellants would travel by air to commit a terrorism offence."  Brar and Dulai filed a request to have their names removed from the list with the Federal Court of Canada in 2019.However, in 2022 Justice Simon Noel rendered a decision against them both.

He declared that the restrictions placed on Dulai "were the result of evidence-based suspicions that he could fly abroad in order to plot a terrorist attack."    

"The Government of Canada must enact laws that protect national security and intelligence activities in a way that respects rights and freedoms and encourages the international community to do the same," Noel said.

Both Brar and Dulai contended in their appeal that the restrictions imposed on them by being included to the list were not "minimal" and were therefore not warranted.

Nonetheless, the appellate court determined that the legislation was reasonable and that the court's private parts followed fair procedural rules. The appeal court determined that the Secure Air Travel Act is "not directed to past events that are tangible, certain, and known" and that it addresses "national security, international relations, and global co-operation to prevent terrorism."

"Rather, it is forward-looking, designed to act preventatively, proactively and pre-emptively to deal with perhaps imprecise but nevertheless very real risks of harm to property, public safety and human life," according to the decision.

"Several of its features show careful tailoring to minimise the impairment of rights and freedoms."    

As the third judge, Judge David Stratas, argues that although the courts must uphold people's rights, the government has "sky-high" interests in maintaining security and preventing terrorism, hence it is appropriate to give Parliament "some leeway."   

Requests for comments on the court's decision were not immediately answered by the attorneys for Brar and Dulai. New Delhi sources claim that Dulai belongs to the outlawed Babbar Khalsa.

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They said that Jagmeet Singh, the head of the opposition New Democratic Party, is connected to Dulai. Dulai is the owner of two channels: "Global TV" in Chandigarh and "Channel Punjabi" in Surrey.

They alleged that Khalistani propaganda was broadcast on both channels. The court's decision was made against the backdrop of severely strained relations between Canada and India as a result of claims made in September of last year by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the "potential" participation of Indian operatives in Nijjar's murder.

Trudeau's accusations were dismissed by New Delhi as "absurd" and "motivated".

India has argued that Ottawa's allowance of pro-Khalistan elements operating from Canadian land with impunity is the primary point of contention between the two nations.  

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- With inputs from agencies

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