Canada’s Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, quoted by Indian media, said on Thursday that the Canadian government is working on a plan to approve private sponsorship of Hindu and Sikh citizens of Afghanistan by a foundation and approved individuals will be welcomed to Canada in the coming year.
Canadian MP Sukh Dhaliwal issued a statement this week on Hussen’s announcement and profusely thanked him, the Times of India said in a report on Thursday.
The report said that the initiative is being moved forward by Manmeet Bhullar Foundation in Canada.
According to the report, this initiative was supported by Canada-based organizations, including World Sikh Organization and gurdwara communities following a deadly attack in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan in July which left 19 people dead – most of them Sikhs, including their leader Avtar Singh Khalsa, who was running for the Afghan parliament.
The Canada-based organizations have asked the Canadian government to recognize Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan as vulnerable minorities and develop an appropriate plan to directly evacuate them, the report said. They also called on Canadian people to lobby lawmakers of their areas on this matter.
“I am thankful for the hard work of the late MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar and proud that on the third anniversary of his passing, we can make this announcement to welcome the most vulnerable to Canada,” MP Dhaliwal said in his statement, as quoted by Times of India.
According to a recent figure given by representatives of Hindus and Sikhs in Kabul, the Sikh community now numbers fewer than 300 families in Afghanistan, which has only two gurdwaras, or places of worship, one each in Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital.
Although almost entirely a Muslim country, Afghanistan was home to as many as 250,000 Sikhs and Hindus before a devastating civil war in the 1990s.
Even a decade ago, the US State Department said in a report, about 3,000 Sikhs and Hindus still lived in the country.
Despite official political representation and freedom of worship, many face prejudice and harassment as well as violence from militant Islamist groups, prompting thousands to move to India, their spiritual homeland.