Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers have expressed his concerns over ongoing farmers’ protests in India. During the virtual Gurpurab 2020 celebration, PM Trudeau, at the beginning of his address, talked about the protests in India. Ministers from the Sikh community, including Navdeep S Bains, Harjit Sajjan, and Bardish Chagger, joined him in the conversation.
While talking about the protests, Trudeau said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t start also by recognizing the news coming out of India about the protests by farmers. The situation is concerning. And we all are very worried about family and friends; I know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you. Canada will always be ready to defend the right to peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we reached out to multiple means directly to Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.”
Other Canadian ministers, leaders extend support to farmer agitation
Canadian MP Bardish Chaggar, who was part of the Gurpurab celebration, had tweeted on November 30 that the rights of farmers protesting peacefully in India must be respected, and meaningful dialogue is the way forward.
Minister of National Defence, Canada, Harjit Sajjan had tweeted on November 29, “The reports of peaceful protesters being brutalized in India are very troubling. Many of my constituents have family there and are worried about the safety of their loved ones.”
In 2017, Chief Minister Punjab, Captain Amrinder Singh, alleged that Sajjan has connections with Khalistani extremists.
Member of Parliament Tim S Uppal had tweeted on December 1, “Sikhs across Canada are thinking of and praying for India’s farmers who are peacefully protesting new farming legislation,” along with his video of November 30 Canadian Parliamentary proceedings where he raised the issue of the protest. In his statement in the parliament, he said, “Hundreds of thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other parts of India are making way to Delhi. Shockingly along the way these peaceful protesters were met with blockades, water cannons, batons and tear gas. But they persisted peacefully.”
Member of Parliament Jasraj Singh Hallan also extended support to protesting ‘farmers’. Posting a snippet of his parliamentary address, he claimed that it is time to stand up for Freedom of Speech not just at home (Canada) but also abroad.
In the parliament, he said, “Canadians are concerned by the recent acceleration of India’s tension between farmers and Indian authorities. Freedom of speech is fundamental to a healthy democracy, including peaceful protests. Farmers feed cities. Their labour is crucial to the function of any country. No farmers, no food. Authorities are used to tear gas and water cannons, and baton charges to shutdown the peaceful protests.”
Earlier in June when protests broke out in Canada against racism after George Floyd death in US, Police across Canada resorted to using tear gas to disperse the protesting mob.
Minister of Public Services and Procurement had quoted Harjit Sajjan on Twitter and said, “Healthy democracies should allow peaceful protests.”
Member of Parliament Maninder Sidhu had tweeted on December 1 and said, “I rose in the House (virtually) to ask our Minister of Foreign Affairs how Canada is expressing its concern over the fundamental rights of farmers to peacefully protest in India,” along with the video of his address in the parliament in which he said, “Many Indo-Canadians particularly the 600,000 Punjabi decent are watching closely as hundreds of thousands of farmers are marching to Delhi in a peaceful protest. However, many of the farmers from Punjab have met with violence from police and blocked from entry to Delhi. It is essential that people in a democratic society are allowed to protest peacefully without fear of violence in response.”
Member of Parliament Navdeep Bains had tweeted on November 29 and shared images of protest. He said, “I’ve heard from many of my constituents in Mississauga-Malton, expressing their concerns about the safety of their family and friends in the #FarmersProtest in India.”
Concerns over Khalistan extremists’ presence in Canada
Over the years, several security agencies and leaders from India have raised concerns over the presence of Khalistani supporters and extremists in Canada. While the Defence Minister of Canada, Harjit Sajjan, was accused by Capt Amrinder Singh of having Khalistani connections, several reports suggest that Khalistanis are operating from Canada.
In September 2020, an Ottawa-based think-tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute had released a study on Pakistan’s role in nourishing Khalistani extremism. The paper stated, “Pro-Khalistani Sikh leaders, who enjoy wide-spread political patronage and clout in Canada, for their control over the Gurudwara cash flow and community votes, had reportedly pressurised the Trudeau government into removing the Khalistan reference from the annual report of terrorism threats.”
There have also been reports of Khalistan forces in India getting financial support from Sikhs in Canada.
Khalistan-hugging had marred Trudeau’s India tour in 2018
In 2018, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau had faced backlash for his alleged connections with Sikh extremists. A Khalistani terrorist was invited to state dinner with the Canadian PM. The Canadian authorities had to apologize on the issue. Trudeau’s inability to address the Khalistan problem in Canada had led to cold shoulder by Modi government.