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Ranjit Singh Denied Entry Into Canada
By KIM BOLAN
Kim Bolan may be reached via email at email@example.com.
CanWest News Service, Vancouver, Sep. 13, 2006
Photo: Ranjit Singh
A former high priest of Sikhism was denied entry to Canada two weeks ago because of his conviction in India for killing a rival religious leader, says a B.C. Conservative M.P.
Ed Fast told the Vancouver Sun that Ranjit Singh - one of five jathedars of Sikhism until his removal in 1999 - should never have been given a visa to visit Canada, but that a mistake was made at the Canadian consulate in Chandigarh.
Fast was approached by the leaders of an Abbotsford Sikh temple on Sep. 1 who had sponsored Singh and were upset that he had been unable to leave Vancouver International Airport after arriving here Aug. 30.
Singh was to be the guest of honour at an Abbotsford religious parade on Sep. 3.
Temple president Swarn Singh Gill said his executive waited for hours for Singh after his plane touched down in Vancouver, but were not given the chance to talk to him in person or on the phone before immigration officials sent him back.
Fast said he learned the visitor's visa given to Singh was in error because of confusion on the part of Canadian officials in India.
'The original visa in India should never have been issued,' Fast said. 'There was some confusion over two different names that were being used.'
Fast said there is no suggestion Singh attempted to mislead officials, but that there was a mix-up at the consulate in the Punjabi capital.
'Mr. Singh was turned back for good reasons. He had been refused a visa on a number of other occasions under the previous government,' Fast said.
He said he understands some members of the Sikh community were upset Singh was sent back to India, but that he was automatically ineligible to visit Canada because of his conviction for the 1980 murder of Nirankari leader Gurbachan Singh.
Ranjit Singh was eventually pardoned for the murder, but Fast said pardons cannot normally be taken into account because they are given for a variety of reasons.
Ranjit Singh told C.T.V.'s W-5 in early 1999 - after he was released from prison - that the murder was 'the right thing to do.'
He also issued a controversial edict excommunicating six moderate B.C. Sikhs from their religion because they disagreed with his earlier proclamation that no tables and chairs should be used in temple dining halls.
One of those excommunicated was newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer, who was murdered a few months later.
Balwant Singh Gill, the moderate leader of Surrey, B.C.'s Guru Nanak temple, was also excommunicated by Singh and received several threats at the time.
He said Tuesday that the Canadian government should investigate how the visa to Singh was issued in the first place.
Hayer's son Dave, a B.C. M.L.A., wrote to Immigration Minister Monty Solberg Aug. 31 to praise the immigration officials who stopped Singh.
But Dave Hayer also wants to know how Singh, who divided the Sikh community in Canada, managed to get his visa in the first place.
'I have had a lot of calls from my constituents who are very concerned that he managed to get here,' Hayer said this week.
Officials from both the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as the Canada Border Services Agency, refused to comment on Singh's case.
C.B.S.A. media liaison officer Janis Fergusson said privacy laws prevent her from giving details about someone's application to visit Canada, even if they have a criminal conviction in another country.