Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s motion asking council to “stand in solidarity” with farmers in India, who have been protesting against what they say are repressive laws brought in by the Indian government, will be dealt with at council’s next meeting on April 26 after he tried unsuccessfully to have it fast-tracked on Monday.
McCallum said on April 12 he needed council’s unanimous support to deal with it on that night, but Councillor Brenda Locke did not give her consent, saying “proper protocol in this case is that this is a notice of motion.
“I would prefer that,” she said. “I think this is a serious issue for people of Surrey, many of them, and I know, I have been to the Punjab, I do know how hard-working the Indian farmers are so I do recognize the plight of the Indian farmer and I certainly want to give it our best due diligence in reviewing this item.”
On April 6, McCallum issued a press release noting that “many residents of Surrey have family and friends in India who have been adversely impacted by the farming bill passed in their ancestral land.
”The changes affecting the farmers in India threaten their livelihood and their protests have been met with a heavy hand by the Government of India,” McCallum stated. “With April being Sikh Heritage Month in BC and also marking Vaisakhi, one of the most important celebrations in the Sikh faith, it is timely and fitting that city Council supports this important issue that affects so many of Surrey’s Indian community. I ask all of council to join me in this motion and show that Surrey stands in solidarity with the farmers in India.”
For many months now Surrey residents of Indian decent have been staging street corner protests and car rallies in Surrey and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland in support of farmers on the subcontinent.
Sukh Dhaliwal, Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, said he advocates for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Dhaliwal is the author of Bill C-376, introduced in 2017, to designate April as Sikh Heritage Month.
“Mayor McCallum has his own jurisdiction, his own sovereignty, so basically whatever suits him, I think this is the way. What we have always said is people have to make decisions on the different orders of government on their own. So he’s making a decision, you know, good luck to him,” Dhaliwal told the Now-Leader. “He has his own sovereignty, right.”
McCallum’s motion aside, Dhaliwal said it’s his position that the right to peacefully protest, “and peacefully asking these demands for dialogue, is a fundamental human right, so that is what should be respected and that’s what we believe in, we believed in it from day one and I believe in it today.”
Randeep Sarai, Liberal MP for Surrey Centre, said he’s “thankful” to McCallum for his motion “as the right to protest freely is a fundamental human right and all democracies should always support that right.”