Military on defensive after soldiers wrongly given guns for Sikh parade

Commander approved participation in the parade and asked to organize the soldiers’ participation

Security stands in front of the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau as he greets people at the Khalsa Day parade, an event that celebrates the Sikh new year at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Sunday, April 30, 2017. The Canadian military is scrambling to explain why a group of soldiers was issued weapons to march in a Toronto parade on Sunday commemorating Canada’s Sikh community. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch)

The Canadian military is scrambling to explain why a group of soldiers was issued weapons to march in a Toronto parade on Sunday for Canada’s Sikh community.

Photos and videos of the event show the soldiers, many of them turban-wearing Sikhs, marching in the Khalsa parade in military uniforms and carrying assault rifles, which the military says is not normally allowed. They were also escorted by an armoured vehicle.

The only time service members can carry weapons in public is during certain military parades or demonstrations such as a tattoo, according to Canadian Army spokeswoman Karla Gimby.

The commanding officer of the Lorne Scots reserve unit, which is based in Mississauga, signed off on the weapons, Gimby added, after his commander approved participation in the parade and asked him to organize the soldiers’ participation.

READ MORE: Canadian military reports victories in war on sexual misconduct in the ranks

“Normally, weapons are not carried at such events,” she said in an email. “The decision to have personnel in full fighting order was made by the local commander and was not in keeping with the Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial.”

The army’s top commander in Ontario, Brig.-Gen. Joe Paul, is following up with the unit and has issued additional orders prohibiting the carrying of weapons at similar events, Gimby said.

The military could not immediately say whether a formal investigation or disciplinary action had been launched.

Held to commemorate the Sikh holy day of Vaisakhi, the annual Khalsa parade in Toronto has grown over the years to become one of Canada’s largest such events, with an estimated 100,000 attendees.

This year’s parade also coincided with the federal government’s decision to remove a reference to Sikh extremism from a report on terrorism after it was added for the first time in December, sparking outrage from members of the community.

Balpreet Singh Boparai, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization in Canada, acknowledged that some might try to use the photos and videos of Sunday’s parade to stir up fears of Sikh extremists infiltrating the Canadian Forces.

But he said the Khalsa parade has nothing to do with extremism, adding the military has participated in many such events before and, “personally, I believe if this was a group of white soldiers, people who don’t look different, it wouldn’t have been an issue.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Victorian makes gridlock fun with traffic bingo

How far into your drive before you yell BINGO?

Commuter Challenge proves biking to work was the faster option on Wednesday

Greater Victoria teams raced from across the region to a downtown finish line

HarbourCats kick off preseason with free Fan Fest

Play catch with the players, meet Tally-Ho horses and discover this year’s new secret attraction

Sooke woman is ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at Thetis Lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

BC Ferries asks boaters to learn signals and be careful around ferries

BC Ferries responded to 15 marine emergencies in 2018

VIDEO: Journey of SD62 Aboriginal graduates recognized at ceremony

‘Enriching and empowering’ ceremony encourages students to hold onto their identities

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Thunderstorms to bring heavy rain, risk of flash floods in the Okanagan

Ten to 30 millimetres of rain to fall over the early weekend

Unbe-leaf-able: Agassiz man finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers in a month

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Man in B.C. charged with murder and arson in 2016 New Brunswick death

He is charged in the death of 71-year-old Lucille Maltais, who was found inside a burned down home

Improve your life and theirs, adopt a cat from the BC SPCA

The BC SPCA holds an adult cat adoption promotion

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Most Read