An NDP MP is apologizing for awarding a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for community service to a Surrey, B.C., radio station manager who is facing a trial on firearms charges from a 2010 shooting.
Maninder Gill, manager of Radio India, said New Democrat Jinny Sims presented him the medal a few days ago.
Canadian MPs and Senators are each granted 30 Diamond Jubilee medals – commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s ascension to the throne – which they are allowed to disburse as they see fit.
Mr. Gill told The Globe and Mail he considers the medal a recognition of the more than $10-million he has raised for charitable causes through his radio station.
He said the weapons charges should not be held against him in connection with the medal. He added that he was acting in self-defence against “Khalistani goons,” a reference to supporters of an independent Sikh homeland in northern India.
“I know I am facing charges, but that is beside the point. What I have done for the community is why I get honours.”
The NDP declined to make Ms. Sims available to explain herself on Tuesday. Calls to her office were routed to the party’s caucus press secretary. The New Democrats explained the Newton-North Delta MP could not speak to the media because she was travelling to India.
In the statement released by the NDP caucus, Ms. Sims said she was unaware of the charges facing Mr. Gill when she gave him the award.
But she declined to disavow her decision, pointing out that Canadians are considered innocent until found guilty.
“It has come to my attention that Mr. Maninder Gill, a resident of my riding to whom I awarded a Queen’s Jubilee medal, has been ordered to stand trial,” Ms. Sims said. “I awarded the medal to Mr. Gill in recognition of the significant contributions he has made to his community and was not aware of the pending legal matter.”
Sixty-thousand medals are being handed out to Canadians nominated by MPs, provincial governments and other organizations to recognize service to Canada or “an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada.”
Ms. Sims apologized if any Canadians were angered by her decision.
“I recognize the seriousness of the crime he has been accused of committing, and apologize to those who were offended that he was presented with the medal,” the MP said.
“The Canadian legal system treats everyone fairly by ensuring that each accused person is considered to be innocent until they are found to be guilty in a court of law.”
The NDP and the Conservatives are both vying to win the support of Indo-Canadian voters in regions such as B.C.’s Lower Mainland.
Mr. Gill is headed for trial on weapons charges after Harjit Atwal was shot in the leg outside a Sikh temple in Surrey in August, 2010.
The radio station manager said on Tuesday that supporters of a Khalistan homeland have been angry at him in the past because of criticism broadcast from Radio India. “I didn’t speak against them, but my [radio show] host did speak against them.”