Academics Call for Retraction of “Vitriolic” Khalistan Report by Macdonald-Laurier Institute

OTTAWA, Canada—In an unprecedented move, a group of almost 50 academics, who work closely with the Sikh community or in the area of Sikh studies, has co-signed a letter calling for a retraction of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) report titled “Khalistan: A project of Pakistan”.

The report, authored by retired journalist Terry Milewski with a foreword by former Conservative political staffer Shuvaloy Majumdar and former politician Ujjal Dosanjh, was released by the Institute on September 9th, 2020.  

The academics are sounding alarm bells around MLI’s decision to publish “such a poorly researched, unfounded and uncritical analysis of a significant issue”. The letter goes on to highlight  that the report “contains a litany of conclusory statements and allegations without any substantiation”, “casts wide aspersions on a highly visible, racialized community, engaged in legitimate advocacy”, and that “the “reference” section is one-sided, showing a lack of literature review or effort to triangulate claims.”

The controversial Milewski report, which attempts to probe the link between the Khalistan movement and Pakistan, has been criticized as lacking “adequate academic rigour, journalistic neutrality, and balance”.

The letter has been signed by professors and academics from across North America and the United Kingdom, including four chairs of Sikh studies.

The letter in its entirety is reproduced below and can be seen here

September 15, 2020
Macdonald-Laurier Institute
323 Chapel Street
Suite 300
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 7Z2

We are writing to you with regard to a report recently published by your Institute under the title, “Khalistan: a project of Pakistan.” We are asking that you reevaluate your decision to publish such vitriolic content under your institute’s name.

As academics who work closely with the Sikh community, we are concerned to read a report that contains a litany of conclusory statements and allegations without any substantiation. We are particularly concerned with the manner in which the report casts wide aspersions on a highly visible, racialized community, engaged in legitimate advocacy. The report maligns all Sikh-Canadians engaging in advocacy as extremist and foreign-influenced actors. This is especially concerning as so many of these advocates and activists are rigorous critics of both India and Pakistan’s record regarding minority rights.

The report also damages the credibility of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute as it lacks adequate academic rigour, historical and contextually-based journalistic analysis, and balance. As academics, writers, and professors, we regularly evaluate work for peer review and have our own work assessed for accuracy as well. The report is sparsely referenced and the few claims that are made seem to not have been fact-checked. The “reference” section is one-sided showing a lack of literature review or effort to triangulate claims. While the writing is presented as objective policy analysis, it actually reads as a scattered collection of opinions and vague allegations; it is a simplistic and single worldview. The report is shockingly un-Canadian in every aspect, from a lack of respect for free speech to a parroting of a foreign, Indian government narrative on Khalistani activism. Without any critical analysis, the author completely disregards the valid grievances and grassroots advocacy of the Sikh community. 

Mr. Milewski misses the opportunity to provide a meaningful policy analysis based on facts that would further the Institute’s aims of making “poor quality public policy in Ottawa unacceptable.” The following are some examples.

We hope that you carefully consider our concerns and reevaluate your decision to publish such vitriolic content under your institute’s name, particularly considering the lack of academic integrity and the gravity of the accusations being leveled against a highly visible, racialized community. This report has already been circulated in Sikh studies circles damaging the credibility and reputation of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Your institute lays claim to policy analysis produced with integrity that is evidence-based and without bias. The basic premise of this report, however, undermines your own mission.

If you do truly wish to engage in producing reports on Sikh-Canadians in the unbiased spirit of your institute, we are happy to provide peer-review and reference to triangulate and balance such reports. There is a body of extant writing that shows a diversity of Sikh views and debates about Khalistan which documents the abuses by both Pakistan and India that are ignored. Canada, as a non-aligned state in terms of regional geopolitics, is meaningfully positioned to benefit marginalized groups in both countries. For now, we look forward to your response and the timely retraction of this report.

  • Dr. Amrita Kaur Sukhi, Lecturer, University of Toronto

  • Dr. Anneeth Kaur Hundle, Dhan Kaur Sahota Presidential Chair in Sikh Studies at the University of California, Irvine School of Social Sciences

  • Dr. Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, Associate Professor of Sikh Studies, University of Michigan

  • Dr. Balbinder Bhogal, The Sardarni Kuljit Kaur Bindra Endowed Chair in Sikh Studies and Professor of Religion, Hofstra University

  • Dr. Bhavjinder Kaur Dhillon, Faculty of Science, University of British Columbia

  • Dipin Kaur, Yale University

  • Gurbeer Singh, PhD Student, University of California, Riverside 

  • Dr. Gurcharan  Singh, Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa

  • Prof Gurnam Singh, University of Warwick, UK

  • Dr. Gurnam Singh Sanghera, Visiting Professor, ‘Centre for Studies on Sri Guru Granth Sahib,’ at Guru Nanak Dev University.

  • Harinder Singh, Senior Fellow, Research & Policy, Sikh Research Institute

  • Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal, Instructor of Sikh Studies, Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary

  • Dr. Hafsa Kanjwal, Department of History, Lafayette College

  • Harleen Kaur, PhD candidate, UCLA

  • Dr. Harpreet Singh, Sikhism Scholar, Harvard University

  • H Bindy Kaur Kang-Dhillon, PfD Candidate, Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program, UBC

  • Dr, Indira Prahst, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Langara College

  • Dr. Inderpal Grewal, Yale university

  • Dr. Idrisa Pandit, Director of Studies in Islam, University of Waterloo

  • Honorary Fellow, Edward Cadbury Centre

  • Dr. Jagdeep Singh Walia, Department of Pediatrics, Queen’s University 

  • Dr. Jakeet Singh, Department of Politics, York University

  • Dr Jasjit Singh, Associate Professor, University of Leeds (UK)

  • Jasleen Singh, PhD (c), University of Michigan

  • Dr. Jaspreet Bal, Professor, Humber College

  • Dr. Jugdep Singh Chima, Hiram College

  • Dr. Kamal Arora, Instructor, University of the Fraser Valley

  • Kiranjot Chahal, PhD Humanities, York University

  • Khushdeep Kaur, PhD Candidate, Temple University

  • Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, Union Seminary

  • Mallika Kaur, UC Berkeley School of Law

  • Dr. Manpreet Kaur, MD MS, Associate Professor, Stanford University

  • Dr. Michael Hawley, Associate Professor of Sikh History, Mount Royal University

  • Narinder Kaur, University College London, UK

  • Dr. Nirvikar Singh, Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Prabhdeep Singh Hehal, PhD Candidate, Brown University

  • Prabhsharanbir Singh, Instructor, Department of Sociology, UBC

  • Rajbir Singh Judge, Assistant Professor, Department of History, California State University

  • Dr. Sara Grewal, Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Gender and Race, MacEwan University

  • Sasha Sabherwal, PhD (c), Yale University

  • Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, PhD (c), University of the Fraser Valley History

  • Dr. Shruti Devgan, Bowdoin College

  • Simran Kaur Saini, PhD (c), York University

  • Simratpal Singh, Ph.D Candidate, University of Manitoba

  • Sonia Aujla-Bhullar PhD (c), University of Calgary

  • Tejpaul Bainiwal, PhD. Candidate Sikh Studies, UC Riverside

  • Dr. Tarnjit Kaur, PhD Physics 

  • Dr. Tavleen Kaur, University of Wolverhampton

  • Dr. Pashaura Singh, Distinguished Professor and Saini Chair in Sikh Studies, University of California, Riverside

  • Dr. Preet Kaur Virdi, Adjunct Assistant Professor, CUNY

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