Ignatieff interview with Sikh journalist causes stir

Is there ever a time when a politician shouldn’t talk to a journalist? This question gained plenty of air space at a press conference Thursday after Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff confirmed he intended to meet with controversial Sikh editor and radio host Sukhminder Singh Hansra.

For those of you who aren’t familiar: In 2007, Hansra wrote an editorial suggesting he condoned the 1985 near-fatal beating of Ujjal Dosanjh, an outspoken critic of Sikh extremism in B.C. and now a Liberal MP.

According to the CBC, Hansra wrote:  

“About two decades ago, Ujjal Dosanjh uttered heart-breaking words about the martyrs of the Sikh struggle. As a result, one of the Guru’s loved ones gave him a good thrashing. Such things are not accepted in these peaceful countries but …”

He leaves the sentence unfinished for the reader, but most can guess what Hansra is trying to imply here. But, does that mean he shouldn’t get the interview?

For Iggy, the answer is no — but he had to think about it. When reporters first pressed him about the interview, he said:

“There’s no place for extremism in that community, never has been and never will. I’ll evaluate that interview and if there’s any question of taking part in an interview which gives license to political extremism, I’ll have nothing to do with it.”

However, after looking into Hansra a bit more, the Liberals turned up plenty of interviews with the CBC — and at least one picture with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And just like that, the five-minute interview was on, for good.

“The Liberal Party rejects anything that advocates violence, and this interview is in no way an endorsement of the interviewer’s views,” spokesman Daniel Lauzon said in a statement released later that day. “To be sure, Mr. Hansra has said controversial things in the past; but he has an established mainstream presence both in his capacity as a journalist, but also as a regular contributor in other mainstream media.”

During the interview Ignatieff talked about why he has been critical of Harper for targeting the “very ethnic” vote, and also about his time spent in Brampton on the election trail, where Hansra is based.