Justin Trudeau – Brampton MP says he didn’t get a fair hearing when Justin Trudeau kicked him out of the Liberal caucus
OTTAWA— Brampton Centre MP Ramesh Sangha says he didn’t get a fair hearing from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before being ousted from the Liberal caucus over comments he says were “misinterpreted” and “taken out of context” — and which he repeated in an interview with the Star.
Sangha, 76, who now sits as an Independent MP, was ousted Monday in a Zoom call with the prime minister and other Liberal officials for having suggested that some of his caucus colleagues were sympathizers of Khalistani separatists.
He said Trudeau seemed “annoyed,” didn’t give him time to explain himself, and seemed to take “very personal” offence at the criticism Sangha had levelled at his fellow MPs in a Punjabi-language interview with Y Media.
In the Jan. 21 interview, first reported by an English-language online organization, Baaz news, Sangha expressed doubts that former industry minister Navdeep Bains was leaving politics to spend more time with his family, and suggested Bains and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were sympathetic to the movement to create a separate Sikh state in India.
Government whip Mark Holland said in a statement Monday that Sangha was ejected from the Liberal caucus after making “baseless and dangerous” accusations against caucus colleagues.
Sangha, a Sikh, said Wednesday that he does not regret the remarks, and that Holland’s statement was hurtful.
“I’m not against any individual, I’m not against Navdeep Bains or Mr. Sajjan or any other MPs who are proponents of Khalistan,” Sangha said in an interview with the Star. “I don’t say they are extremist.”
But Sangha said he opposes the “extremist ideology” that calls for a separate Sikh state in the Punjab region of India, which he described as a threat to the national security of Canada.
Sangha said that while Trudeau has clearly expressed support for a united India and does not support a separate Khalistani state, “our government is pandering [to] the Khalistanis. I believe it, I’ve seen it happening.”
That’s a view Sangha said he has expressed both in caucus and publicly, including, he said, in a Punjabi-language interview in 2019 on 5AAB TV.
Sangha said his opinion is based on the Liberal government’s removal of the word “Khalistani” from the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat in Canada. He said at a meeting of Liberal MPs with then-public safety minister Ralph Goodale in December 2018, he argued in favour of removing the words “Sikh” and “Muslim” as descriptions of extremism, but said the word “Khalistani” should remain. The government subsequently deleted it.
Sangha declined to offer any other basis for his beliefs, saying, “I think that’s enough proof.”
He said he never took his concerns to CSIS or the RCMP. “My feeling was just to talk in caucus and see that things can be changed.”
However, he said he was never given a chance to fully defend himself in Monday’s meeting with Trudeau because he believed the prime minister had clearly made up his mind.
On Wednesday, the day that federal party caucuses meet, Sangha said he was “feeling very bad.”
“I’m losing my friends, I’m losing my friends of the same mind,” he said. “It was a family.”
He said he had not considered whether he would join another party, nor has any reached out to him. For now, he said he intends to remain as an Independent MP for Brampton Centre, but has not decided whether he will run again.
Sangha said he was a district-level politician in Jalandhar, a city in India’s northern Punjab region, before he immigrated to Canada in 1994.
He said he trained and worked as a personal injury lawyer in Canada, and was involved with the Liberal party under Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Michael Ignatieff.
Sangha said now he might start up his law practice again, which he’d dropped about two years after being first elected to the House of Commons in 2015.
Holland said the “necessary steps” were taken before Sangha’s removal.
Sangha said he did not see the other Liberal officials onscreen during the call with the prime minister, but believed Holland was among those on the call. He said Holland did not speak to him beforehand.
In an interview, Holland declined to comment on the specifics of what Sangha said or the process that led to his ouster.
“His comments are a matter of record,” said Holland on Monday. “Making baseless allegations and defaming others, let alone members of your own team, let alone members of your own caucus, is totally and utterly unacceptable, has no place in our party, or should have no place in any political party.”
Sangha said he is not worried about whether Bains will sue him. “It’s up to him. He can.”
Bains did not reply to a request for comment on Sangha’s claim, with a source close to Bains saying he will “not dignify it with a response.” The source added no decision had been made on whether Bains would sue.
Bains stepped down as the industry, science and innovation minister in early January, saying he decided not to run in the next election because after 17 years in politics, he wanted to spend more time with his two children, aged 10 and 13, and allow his wife to return to work. He will continue to sit as the MP for Mississauga-Malton until the next federal election.
The Star reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office for comment but received no reply.