Justin Trudeau tells ‘Canadians of Sikh heritage’… ’will protect your freedom’ amid pro-Khalistan slogans

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement came soon after pro-Khalistan slogans were raised on the occasion of Khalsa Day on Sunday, April 28. The incident took place amid a sharp rise in anti-India sentiment in Canada in the recent times.

Written By Akriti Anand
Updated29 Apr 2024, 03:45 PM IST
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed a crowd during Khalsa day celebrations at City Hall in Toronto, Sunday, April 28, 2024.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed a crowd during Khalsa day celebrations at City Hall in Toronto, Sunday, April 28, 2024.(AP)

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured "nearly 800 thousand Canadians of Sikh heritage" that his government will always be there to protect their rights and freedom. His statement came soon after the 'Khalistan Zindabad' slogans were raised on the occasion of Khalsa Day on Sunday, April 28, in Toronto, according to a video in the YouTube channel of Canadian media organisation CPAC.

Trudeau said, “The story of the Sikh community in Canada is, in fact, the story of the Canada...To the nearly 800 thousand Canadians of Sikh heritage across this country, we will always be there to protect your rights and your freedom, and we will always defend your community against hatred and discrimination.”

ALSO READ: What is the Khalistan movement that triggered India-Canada rift? Explained

The Canadian PM also noted that the country is enhancing the security and infrastructure programmes by "adding more security at community centres and places of worship, including Gurdwaras."

"Your right to practice your religion freely, and without intimidation is exactly that. A fundamental right guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that we will always stand up and defend you for," Trudeau assured the Sikh community in his Khalsa Day address.

India-Canada deal

Trudeau further informed that Canada “has negotiated a new agreement with India to add more flights and more routes between" the two countries.

He said, “Vaisakhi brings together friends and family. I know that many of you have loved ones who you want to see more often. That's why, our government has negotiated a new agreement with India to add more flights and more routes between our countries. And we will keep working with our counterparts to add even more flights, including to Amritsar.”

'Pro-Khalistan slogans' in presence of PM Trudeau

Pro-Khalistan slogans were raised in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as opposition leader Pierre Poilievre. The incident took place amid a sharp rise in anti-India sentiment in Canada in recent times.

"Khalistan zindabad" slogans were raised as Trudeau was about to take the stage for his address to mark Khalsa Day. The chants were heard getting louder till he arrives and commences his speech, in the video released by Canada-based CPAC TV.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Thousands of people reached Toronto on Sunday for one of the biggest yearly gatherings in the city. According to the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council (OSGC), Vaisakhi, which is also called Khalsa Day, celebrates the founding of the Sikh community in 1699. It is also the Sikh New Year.

In his speech, the Canadian PM said that diversity is one of the country's greatest strengths, and the country “is strong not in spite of the differences, but because of those differences”.

"One of Canada's greatest strengths is its diversity. We are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences; but even as we look at these differences, we have to remember, and get reminded on days such as this, and every day, that Sikh values are Canadian values..." Trudeau said.

India-Canada diplomatic tension

Trudeau's remarks come at a time when the diplomatic relations between India and Canada are going through a difficult phase. The killing of India-designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, had sparked a row between India and Canada. Nijjar was designated a terrorist by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2020, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on the evening of June 18, 2023.

Trudeau had sparked a controversy on September 18, 2023, when he told the Canadian House of Commons that Canadian security agencies had been actively pursuing “credible allegations of a potential link" between agents of the Government of India and the killing of Nijjar.

India rejected the claims and called the allegations as "absurd and motivated." New Delhi and Ottawa announced tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats in the wake of Trudeau's allegation of Indian involvement in Nijjar's killing.

Canada has the largest Sikh population outside Punjab, with 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census. India is Canada's largest source of foreign students, accounting for 40 per cent of study permit holders

(With inputs from agencies))

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First Published:29 Apr 2024, 03:45 PM IST
HomeNewsworldJustin Trudeau tells ‘Canadians of Sikh heritage’… ’will protect your freedom’ amid pro-Khalistan slogans

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