Military on defensive after soldiers wrongly given guns for Sikh parade

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

Photographs and videos of the show the soldiers, a considerable lot of them turban-wearing Sikhs, walking in the Khalsa march in military uniforms and conveying strike rifles, which the military says isn’t normally allowed. They were also escorted by an armored vehicle.

The main time service members can convey weapons in public is amid sure military parades or demonstrations such as a tattoo, according to Canadian Army spokeswoman Karla Gimby.

The leader of the Lorne Scots save the unit, which is situated in Mississauga, approved the weapons, Gimby included after his commander approved participation in the parade and asked him to organize the soldiers’ participation.

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“Ordinarily, weapons are not conveyed at such occasions,” she said in an email.

“The choice to have personnel in full fighting request was made by the neighborhood leader and was not with regards to 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.
Asked about a formal examination and investigation disciplinary measures, Gimby stated: “The incident will be investigated thoroughly.”

“(Paul) has a scope of authoritative and disciplinary measures available to him. Starting at now it is too soon to figure out what will happen since the investigation has not been concluded.”

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 some 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.

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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.”

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