A highly-classified intelligence assessment warned that threats against Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan posed a “unique challenge” for his security detail.
The 2016 document lists a host of possible sources for those threats, from the Islamic State to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Sikh extremists, and gangs. The documents also suggest that there are right-wing elements that could also pose a threat to the minister.
The RCMP Protective Policing program, which operates as a security detail for the cabinet and other high-level figures — like a Canadian version of the American Secret Service — prepared the April, 2016 assessment.
The assessment reports that Sajjan faces threats not only due to his “position as a minister of the crown and as a symbol of Canada” but also because of his “background as a community leader and a symbolic Indo-Canadian.”
The intelligence report, which carries the designation of “top secret // for Canadian eyes only” — one of the highest classification levels — reports that, due to his past as both a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and a member of the Vancouver Police Department, Sajjan could also be a target for Islamic extremist groups or Sikh gangs based in Vancouver.
VICE News obtained the documents through an access to information request asking for threat assessments pertaining to white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan — Sajjan was the only minister to be mentioned in the documents. While neither of those far-right movements are mentioned in the documents, large swaths of the pages are redacted because they could pertain to ongoing investigations, sensitive details of threats to national security, or because the information could aid in the commission of a crime.
Sajjan’s office declined to comment on the report.
“The [minister of national defence] and his family have been subject of non-specific, possibly threatening events according to police files.”
The threat assessment reports that attackers either inspired or directed by IS could present a threat to the minister, both lone wolf plotters “who can conduct attacks without warning” or more sophisticated plots, akin to the large-scale attacks in Paris and Brussels, could be possible. “The RCMP cannot discount the existence of an ISIL-directed terrorist operation targeting Canada,” the report reads, adding “the minister could be affected by global terrorism as he travels outside of Canada,” referencing a list of international destinations the minister has already travelled to.
But the report also delves into a variety of threats that may target the minister himself.
The report notes that “the Taliban and their extremist allies targeted Indians in Afghanistan throughout the [minister’s] time there.” It reads that it is “conceivable” that Sajjan was himself targeted.
In a heavily-redacted portion of the documents, the RCMP noted that Sajjan had been at the centre of controversy within the SIkh community while running for the Liberal Party nomination in his riding, with some accusing his bid of being orchestrated by the World Sikh Organization, a prominent voice in the community that has, in the past, been accused of supporting extremist Sikh nationalists — a charge they vigorously deny. Sajjan’s father has been involved in that organization in the past.
While the organization is a mainstream voice for Sikhs in Canada, it also advocates for an independent Sikh state. That’s led to tensions in India. When he visited in April, Sajjan came under fire from local politicians who suggested that the minister and his father are left-wing radicals.
“Sikh extremism remains a concern for Canada.”
Sikh extremists were responsible for the deadliest terror attack in Canadian history, when they detonated a bomb on Air India Flight 182, killing everyone onboard. Sikh extremists have also been known to target fellow Sikh who have spoken out against violence and extremism, including former federal health minister Ujjal Dosanjh.
The intelligence assessment goes on to say that “violence has been an element of the political and religious debate between Sikhs in Greater Vancouver,” including smashed windows, threats, and physical attacks — although the report doesn’t provide any examples more current than 2000.
The RCMP writes that “in general, support for Sikh extremism in Canada is on the decline” but that “Sikh extremism remains a concern for Canada.”
The section on Sikh extremism concludes: “The [minister of national defence] and his family have been subject of non-specific, possibly threatening events according to police files.”
The intelligence assessment reports that the previous three defence ministers all faced threats, with the RCMP opening 18 investigations towards the ministers. Of those, two individuals faced criminal charges while eight cases remain unsolved.
Read the full threat assessment: