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MLA Jas Johal's "Islamabad North" comment "absolutely unacceptable"


On May 16th, during the question period at BC Legislature, Richmond Queensborough BC Liberal MLA, Mr. Jas Johal while criticizing Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims by all accounts seemed condescending. Anyone whom have seen the video clips, would conclude that Mr. Johal was thoroughly enjoying, while picking on Ms. Sims at the expense of drawing reference to Pakistan and Pakistani nationals for whom Ms. Sims had written reference letter in support of their visa applications, in a negative context. He said, “This minister keeps talking about representing her constituents, (but) these are Pakistani nationals on a watch list. She continues to forget that; she ignores that. I remind her she is an MLA for Surrey-Panorama, not Islamabad North.”

Members of the Community  including the local Pakistani associations,  Pakistan Canada Association (PCA), and Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association (PCCA), demanded an immediate retraction of comments made by Mr. Johal in the legislative assembly, and later perpetuated by other BC Liberals MLA’s outside the legislature.

PCA President, Mr. Shaukat Khan issued a statement, “On May 16th, 2019, Richmond-Queensborough MP Jas Johal chose division over unity when stating that a member of the NDP represented 'Islamabad North.' His comments spoke negatively about 3 Pakistani-Nationals with the implication being that all individuals from Pakistan are safety risks which feeds into a troubling Islamophobic narrative.

It is dear the elected representative of BC Liberal Party is taking a page out of politics of hate and divide and using fear and division to gain approval and support. Pakistan-Canada Association is disgusted with the comments made by Jas Johal and demand an immediate apology and retraction of his comments.”

PCCA President, Mr. Naveed Waraich also echoed similar sentiments, “Mr. Johal should carry out his duties as an MLA with due diligence to ensure that he is not inciting any form of bigotry, division and/or hatred. We are a multicultural country that respects the values, traditions and culture of one and every Canadian. For Mr. Johal to single out “Pakistan” and “Islamabad North” in his dialogue on the floor of the legislative assembly takes away from the core values that Canadians hold so dearly and are absolutely unacceptable.

These kinds of remarks give opportunity to and promote various forms of discrimination and racism; as a member of authority it should be noted that Mr. Johal should be working to curb discrimination and racism rather than promoting such inexcusable and prejudice dialogue.”

We would like to recognize BC NDP MLA, from Surrey-Fleetwood, Mr. Jagrup Brar for not only raising the issue on the legislative floor, but also to clarify the fallacies in his statement about some of the would-be visitors from Pakistan were on U.S. watchlist. Mr. Brar stated, “Last week, I reserved my right on a point of privilege, and today I rise to speak about it. We are blessed to live in the most beautiful province, home to the most diverse community — the province built by the people who came before us on the fundamental values of equality, justice and fairness for all British Columbians. These principles are fundamental to Canadian society. We believe in treating people equally, regardless of race or place of origin. This is the people's House, this beautiful House, and it is our job as the representatives of the people to lift people up, not put them down.

On May 16, the member for Richmond-Queensborough told the Minister of Citizens' Services: "she is an MLA for Surrey-Panorama, not Islamabad North." The member also claimed some of these individuals were on security watch lists.

This allegation was repeated outside of the House by other B.C. Liberal MLAs, including the Opposition House Leader, who took it even further by saying these people were "on the U.S. terror watch list."

The Pakistani community is very upset and offended as a result of the comments made by B.C. Liberals inside this House and outside this House. The Pakistan Canada Association said that they were disappointed by these comments because they "feed into a troubling Islamophobia narrative." The Pakistani Canadian Cultural Association said that the comments "have outraged and offended the Pakistani community." They note that "his fellow Liberal MLAs clapped to show support for his inappropriate statements."

“The Pakistani community has made extraordinary contributions to this province, and they deserve respect from all members of this House. Therefore, the member for Richmond-Queensborough must not only retract but apologize to the members of the Pakistani community that he has hurt. “

Mr. Johal did meet with Pakistani community members and leaders on May 24th to explain his version of events, what led to him making those comments, and apologized to the Pakistani community for his remarks.
Mr. Johal said to Star Vancouver newspapers, “The allegation that I might be fuelling Islamophobia concerns me greatly,” Johal said.

Mr. Johal also informed the community members that he will retract his comments on the legislature floor.

On Monday 27th, apologized for saying that MLA Jinny Sims represented “Surrey-Panorama, not Islamabad North.”

During this entire fiasco, BC NDP MLA, Ms. Jinny Sims remained the focus of alleged inappropriate conduct on the part of a Minister by the opposition.

Ms. Sims in an email told AlAmeen Post, ““These allegations are completely untrue. I follow the rules and best practices on records management and advise my staff to as well. I help people in our community because it is my job as a representative. I do not take money for it and I’m offended that anyone would suggest otherwise.

This matter is related to a challenging HR situation regarding a former employee and due to privacy I can’t get into further details. When the letter was received in March after her employment had ended, the claims she made were reviewed and there was no evidence to support them. The issue was dealt with by Caucus as she was not a government employee.

Ministers use their government account for government business and legislative account for legislative or constituency business. That is how the system is meant to work and that is what I explained to staff. That’s appropriate. I use my government email for government business and I do not use Whatsapp for government work.

The Opposition appears to be raising this because they have nothing more substantive to talk about at the moment. Our government continues to work hard to make life better for people in B.C.”