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Two Sikh rally organizers say they were wrongly arrested amid Parliament bomb scare

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OTTAWA — Two organizers of a Sikh event near Parliament Hill on Saturday say they are still in shock after being wrongfully arrested in connection with a bomb threat, an experience one of the men described as “disrespectful” and “harassment.”

Officials have released few details about the “potential threat” that prompted an evacuation of Parliament and closure of surrounding streets for several hours on Saturday. Police only said later in the day their investigation had concluded and no threat to public safety was found.

Manveer Singh and Parminder Singh say they are speaking out about the arrests in order to defend their reputations — and they are raising questions about who gave their names to investigators and why, as well as how police handled that information.

“It doesn’t make sense because I know I am not involved in anything. I’m proud as a Canadian Sikh. I love this country, I will do everything to protect this country,” said Parminder Singh.

“Why am I arrested? Because I’m wearing a turban and my skin is not white? What’s going on?”

The two men are organizers of a remembrance rally for the victims of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India. The group had received a permit to gather on the Hill, but when members arrived, they were told they were not allowed to be there because of an ongoing threat in the area.

They relocated to the lawn in front of the Supreme Court of Canada nearby to hold their event.

Harpreet Hansra, another rally organizer, said an officer sought to speak with him and asked him to identify Manveer Singh, who was designated as one of the MCs for the event.

A few minutes after the rally got underway, Manveer Singh said police arrested him and told him they had “credible information” that he was connected to a serious bomb threat on the Hill.

“They believed that I’m the one who’s gonna do that. I was shocked. I’m gathering my community here to bomb them?” he said, adding that police searched him, handcuffed him and brought him to the police station for questioning.

He said police asked to frisk his turban while searching him outside the Supreme Court.

“If I don’t obey their instructions they could have done anything to me, because the threat was very big, it was a security threat to the national Parliament.”

Parminder Singh said he was arrested not long afterward by Ottawa police, who told him that his name was connected to an alleged bomb threat of Parliament.

Ottawa police did not answer questions about the men’s account of events, saying only that the investigation into the matter is now concluded and no charges were laid.

The two organizers said that police also searched their cars for explosives.

The remaining organizers decided to wrap up their event sooner than planned due to fear of the ongoing threat and the fact that two of their members were taken by police, Hansra said.

Hansra went to the police station afterward with two other organizers, he said.

When in police custody, both men said officers had them take off their turbans. Manveer Singh said he was also made to remove other religious symbols including a bracelet called a kara and a ceremonial sword known as a kirpan.

“They wanted me to untie my turban because they have to search very closely … Because I believe that I was the terrorist at that time in their eyes,” he said.

After being in custody for a short while, Parminder Singh said police released him and apologized, adding they arrested him based on wrong information.

“We spoke to the officers that were there and they were very clear. They apologized profusely and said, ‘Sorry that this happened, and we know you guys have nothing to do with it,’” he said.

Both the men who were arrested said police told them that the information that connected them to the threat came from the Canada Border Services Agency.

“They said they have no further knowledge about who or what contacted CBSA, but the information was so detailed that it warranted them to take immediate action at Parliament,” Hansra said.

Rebecca Purdy, spokesperson for Canada Border Services Agency, said in a statement Monday that the agency works regularly with law enforcement to ensure border security, including intelligence and enforcement.

The RCMP said Monday that it can only confirm details related to criminal investigations where charges have been laid.

Ottawa police said in a statement Saturday that they received information about a potential threat near the parliamentary precinct, prompting them to close some surrounding streets to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The Parliamentary Protective Service also ordered an evacuation of Parliament Hill, issuing an alert to all members of Parliament and staff and noting all buildings in the precinct were to be under shelter-in-place orders until further notice.

Both of the rally organizers say they are worried about the damage done to their reputations as a result of being arrested in connection to the explosives threat.

Although police said they were conducting an investigation and if they did not find anything, they would release him, Parminder Singh said they should have done an investigation before arresting him.

“It’s deeply hurt my kids, my wife and also other community members,” Parminder Singh said, calling the experience “disrespectful” and “harassment.”

He said his group began organizing these rallies in 2017, to gather Sikhs from across Ontario and Quebec. Events have been cancelled over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re arresting me doing a peacefully rally? I’ve been doing this for almost my whole life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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Deaths of women, 3 stabbings are ‘deeply unsettling,’ Vancouver mayor says

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VANCOUVER – A suspect is in custody after three apparent random stabbings in Vancouver, where police are also investigating the deaths of two women, a series of events the city’s mayor calls “deeply unsettling.”

Three men were stabbed blocks apart in Vancouver’s downtown core late Monday.

A suspect was arrested and police have said there’s no indication the victims knew each other or their attacker.

It happened on the same day that police said a woman’s body was found on the south side of English Bay, after the body of another woman was found on the opposite shore just a day earlier.

Police have said the causes of death for the unidentified women have not been determined and investigators are working to determine whether a crime occurred and if there’s a connection between the deaths.

Mayor Ken Sim says the events have shaken the community, and the safety of every Vancouverite is the city’s commitment to its residents and visitors.

“The recent tragic events — especially the heartbreaking discovery of two deceased individuals in English Bay and the violent stabbings that occurred last night — are deeply unsettling,” Sim said in a statement released on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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‘Looked awesome’: Accused in murder-conspiracy trial says unaware gun prohibited

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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – One of two men charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers at the Coutts, Alta., border blockade two years ago testified Tuesday he wasn’t aware that the custom-made rifle he had purchased was a prohibited weapon.

Chris Carbert said he paid $5,000 for the DPS Panther A15 rifle found under his mattress in an early morning police raid of a trailer in the village the night he was arrested.

Carbert and Anthony Olienick are being tried together before a jury in Court of King’s Bench in Lethbridge.

The two were charged after police made arrests and seized weapons at the blockade in early 2022.

Carbert said he purchased the assault rifle two weeks before the blockade began but hadn’t even sighted the scope for it.

“It says DPS Panther A15. Did you know what kind of gun it was? What I mean by that is…what type of firearm it was?” Crown prosecutor Steven Johnston asked Carbert. “What made it special to you?”

“That it was custom built and just it looked awesome,” Carbert replied.

“Do you know what an AR-15 is?” said Johnston. “I’m going to suggest to you that the reason you paid $5,000 plus another $1,500 for a scope for it is because you knew it was an AR-15. That’s a special gun in Canada.”

“OK, but I didn’t know,” Carbert said.

Carbert has testified he brought guns and body armour to the blockade but said there was no plan for violence unless he had to perhaps flee to the mountains and fend off someone trying to give him a COVID-19 vaccine shot.

He also told the jury that he had little to do with Olienick and others staying in the trailer, that he was “grumpy and sick” as he tried to recover from COVID-19.

Johnston, in a tense exchange with the accused, suggested when Carbert was arrested in the police raid, he did more than just call a lawyer before surrendering. He said Carbert attempted to hide his weapons and had to make a decision.

“You were trying to decide, ‘How do I come out? Do I come with my hands on my head’ or on the trigger of your gun? That’s what you were trying to decide.” said Johnston.

“Definitely not,” Carbert said.

“You were thinking, ‘Is this the war? Is this them coming for me and is this my war?'” Johnston continued.

“Definitely not.”

“Even all that talk that you’ve given us if they came for you out in the mountains.” Johnston said.

“But we’re nowhere near that point, Mr. Johnston,” Carbert said. “They’re not coming to stick a needle in my arm.”

The protest against COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates tied up traffic for two weeks at the Alberta-U.S. border crossing at Coutts.

It ended quickly and peacefully when police seized weapons and made arrests.

Johnston also asked Carbert about a conversation Carbert had with a friend in late 2021 in which he said, “If they think they are coming for my kids they better be prepared because they will likely be leaving in a body bag.”

“Did you say that to him?” Johnston queried.

“Yeah, I said that. I mean I’ve said some colourful things. There’s no doubt about it,” he replied. “I’ve also said if they came to put the vaccine in me and my kid that they weren’t doing it.”

Court has heard Olienick considered the blockade the fight of a lifetime against a government bent on ending individual freedoms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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Calgary loosening outdoor water restrictions as extreme heat continues

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EDMONTON – Calgary residents can now turn on their sprinklers for longer as the city swelters under an extreme heat warning.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says outdoor watering restrictions may be fully lifted within days, but for now residents can turn on their hoses for up to two hours twice a week to water grass and outdoor plants.

Michael Thompson, Calgary’s infrastructure services general manager, says operational pump issues have been fixed, but other mechanical problems need to be resolved before the city can give the full green light.

He says the city’s water system is approaching 75 per cent capacity, but how it can meet that demand depends on usage.

Outdoor watering restrictions have been in place since a catastrophic water main break on June 5, with a ban on all outdoor water use loosened last week.

Voluntary restrictions on indoor water use were lifted three weeks ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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