India summons Canada’s deputy envoy over pro-Khalistan slogans at Justin Trudeau event

Hindustan Times || Shining BD

Published: 4/30/2024 7:11:39 AM

India on Monday summoned Canada’s deputy envoy to register a strong protest against the shouting of pro-Khalistan slogans at an event in Toronto attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other political leaders.

The development came against the backdrop of strained India-Canada relations, which plunged to an all-time low last year after Trudeau alleged there was a potential link between Indian government agents and the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down outside a gurdwara in Surrey last June.

Canadian Deputy High Commissioner Stewart Wheeler was summoned to the External Affairs ministry in connection with “the raising of separatist slogans on ‘Khalistan’ at an event which was being personally addressed” by the Canadian prime minister, the ministry said in a statement.

The Indian government’s “deep concern and strong protest was conveyed at such disturbing actions being allowed to continue unchecked”, the statement said in a reference to the Khalsa Day Parade in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

The external affairs ministry, which has often criticised the Canadian government for its perceived failure to curb the activities of pro-Khalistan elements, said such actions will impact bilateral relations.

“This illustrates once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence. Their continued expressions not only impact India-Canada relations but also encourage a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its citizens,” the statement said.

As Trudeau arrived at the podium at the Khalsa Day Parade on Sunday, he was greeted with shouts of “Khalistan Zindabad” from some elements in the crowd, and those chants were repeated as he completed his brief speech.

The venue was decorated with numerous Khalistan pennants and signs that attacked the Indian government and officials. The Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which has been declared a terrorist group by India, announced at the event that it will hold the next phase of its so-called “Khalistan Referendum” in Calgary on July 28.

Trudeau, who was accompanied by four cabinet ministers and four Liberal Party MPs, pledged in a speech that his government would always “protect” the rights and freedoms of the Sikh community in Canada.

“To the nearly 800,000 Canadians of Sikh heritage, we will always be there to protect your rights and freedoms and we will always defend your community against hatred and discrimination,” he said.

He said his government will also defend the rights of the Sikh community to practice its religion freely and without intimidation, as this is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Trudeau did not refer to the killing of Nijjar in his speech. His only reference to India was in the context of increasing cooperation in air connectivity, and he said the Canadian government has negotiated a new agreement with India to add more flights and routes between the two sides.

SFJ leader Gurpatwant Pannun, also declared a terrorist by India, described Trudeau’s speech as “reassuring” and said the referendum will be dedicated to Nijjar.

Shining BD