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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Reuters)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Reuters)

Farmers' protest: Canadian PM expresses concern, defends 'peaceful' agitation

  • There was no immediate response to Trudeau’s remarks from the Indian foreign ministry. But the public remarks are unlikely to go down well in New Delhi, as the Indian government has insisted that there will be no repeal of the recently enacted farm laws.

NEW DELHI : Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau overnight Tuesday joined several of his compatriots to express concern about the protests by farmers against recently enacted laws to liberalise farm trade, stating that these concerns had been conveyed to the Indian government.

Trudeau made the remarks while participating in a Facebook interaction organised by Canadian MP Bardish Chagger to mark Gurupurab or the 551st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. He was joined by Canadian ministers Navdeep Bains, Harjit Sajjan and members of the Sikh community.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t start also by recognising the news coming out of India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning and we’re all very worried about family and friends," Trudeau said in his opening remarks.

“I know that’s a reality for many of you. Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue and that’s why we’ve reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns," the Canadian prime minister said. He also said it was important to remember Guru Nanak’s teachings of compassion, equality and selfless service, which were central to both Sikhism and Canadian values.

There was no immediate response to Trudeau’s remarks from the Indian foreign ministry. But the public remarks are unlikely to go down well in New Delhi, coming as it does at a time when the Indian government is set to hold talks with the protesting farmers and has insisted that there will be no repeal of the laws. Canada-India ties had been rocked previously by the Trudeau government’s perceived support to backers of the separatist Khalistan movement but in recent times had stabilized.

Canada has an influential Sikh population which though small is well represented in government and politics.

Others from Canada to have expressed concern over the Indian farmers’ protests include politicians from the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP), according to news reports and Twitter posts.

One of those who expressed concern via Twitter was a former premier of Alberta province Rachel Notley.

“The Alberta NDP stands with farmers in India who, while protesting peacefully, have been subjected to violence using tear gas and water cannons," Notely said in her post. “When people are peacefully standing up for their rights, I agree with you Rachel Notley that violence should never be used against them," she added on 29 November.

NDP leader Jack Harris also voiced concern on Twitter. “The violence targeting farmers in India is alarming The peaceful protests embody the resilient spirit of Punjabi farmers On Gurpurab, I join Sikhs from across Canada in calling on Justin Trudeau to condemn the Indian Govts violent repression of protests," he said in an overnight post on Tuesday.

Last week, news reports had spoken of how the farmers’ protests were being closely monitored and commented on in countries like Australia and Britain.

British Labour Party MP Preet Kaur Gill was quoted as expressing shock at the “scenes from New Delhi."

“Farmers are peacefully protesting over controversial bills that will impact their livelihoods. Water cannons, and tear gas, are being used to silence them," she had said.

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