April 2, 2020
Sent to: The Honourable Marco Mendicino, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Francois-Phillipe Champagne, P.C., M.P.
OPEN LETTER RE: IMMIGRATION MEASURES FOR SIKH AND HINDU COMMUNITIES IN AFGHANISTAN
Minister Mendicino and Minister Champagne,
We write to you today to draw attention to the heartbreaking news of a suicide attack on a Sikh Gurdawara (place of worship) in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed 25 worshippers in the early morning of March 25, 2020 and injured many others. These young children, women, and elderly innocent worshippers were horrifically attacked while in prayer. The youngest victim was a 3 year old infant. This heinous act was further exacerbated by a subsequent missile attack on the crematorium as family members gathered to hold funerals for their deceased loved ones. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack within hours and has since given the communities 10 days to leave or face extinction. It is clear that Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan are not safe, and continue to face extreme persecution and widespread discrimination.
Afghanistan's small Sikh and Hindu community are a religious minority in the country that continue to be frequently targeted by terrorism. They are subjected to discrimination on an ongoing basis because of their religion. Thirty years ago the Sikh and Hindu communities were over 500,000, however after decades of conflict this number has been drastically reduced. After the rise of the Taliban - who ordered Sikhs and Hindus to wear yellow armbands - many were driven to seek asylum elsewhere. The communities are thought to have been reduced to less than 1000.
The World Sikh Organization (WSO) noted that while previously many of those impacted sought refuge status in India this is no longer recommended. They further note that India is not a settlement option for these refugees as it is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees. Additionally, Afghan Sikhs are not included in India’s recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act, and fails to provide access to basic services such as medical care and education for those who have resettled in India.
The process of the resettlement of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Canada had previously been undertaken by Alberta MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar, who unfortunately passed away in
2015. Later, the WSO along with the Manmeet Singh Bhullar Foundation, was able to successfully organize the private sponsorship of 15 Afghan Sikh and Hindu families who arrived in Canada in 2019. These families have now successfully resettled. As is stands, there are approximately 40 families still in the process. We are writing to urge the government to expedite the processing of these applications so that these families no longer have to live in fear for their lives.
As well, the situation in Afghanistan has continued to worsen over the years and the situation is dire. This latest attack is clear evidence of that. We are therefore calling for immediate special refugee resettlement measures including both government sponsorships and private sponsorships for this extremely vulnerable community.
We are mindful of the current unprecedented challenges facing nations, including Canada, and across the world with Covid-19. However, there is still an urgent need to protect those minorities in Afghanistan who have faced severe persecution for far too long.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Jenny Kwan MP, Vancouver East
Jack Harris MP, St. Johns East