Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup

Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers.

Trudeau was asked Friday about India’s decision to call Canada’s high commissioner on the carpet at the foreign ministry in New Delhi over remarks the prime minister offered in support of Indian farmers earlier this week.

Trudeau said previously that he was concerned about the protests in India and that Canada would always support the right of farmers to be heard — remarks the Indian government now says amount to interference in its affairs and potentially damaging to its relations with Canada.

“Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world. And we’re pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue,” Trudeau said Friday when asked about India’s criticism of his remarks.

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday.

Indian farmers have been met with tear gas and water cannons while protesting new laws enacted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they say will subject them to corporate exploitation by driving down prices for their products.

Many of the farmers are Sikhs, and Indian media reports say Trudeau is playing to Canadians of Sikh origin by wading into the matter.

Trudeau has been facing criticism in India from politicians and pundits since his appearance on Monday in a video town hall meeting with the Canadian Sikh community to celebrate the festival of Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurpurab, which marks the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

It wasn’t the first time Trudeau has offended Indian sensibilities. He was widely criticized during his February 2018 trip to the country for dressing up in local garb, and for the invitation mistakenly given to a Sikh extremist to one of his events during that visit.

Trudeau told the Monday event that he wanted to recognize “the news coming out of India about the protest by farmers. This situation is concerning. And we’re all very worried about family and friends. I know that’s a reality for many of you.”

Trudeau then went to tell the meeting that “Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest.”

Trudeau said Canada believes 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. This is a moment for all of us to pull together.”

On Friday, the Indian foreign ministry posted a statement that said Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel had been “summoned” to its headquarters and told that comments by “the Canadian prime minister, some cabinet ministers and members of Parliament on issues relating to Indian farmers constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs.”

The statement also said the comments “encouraged gatherings of extremist activities in front of our high commission and consulates in Canada that raise issues of safety and security.” It called on Canadian political leaders “to refrain from pronouncements that legitimize extremist activism.”

The statement said that if “such actions” continued they would have “seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada.”

Asked Friday if he was concerned about damaging relations with China, Trudeau replied without skipping a beat: “Canada will always stand up for the right for peaceful protests and for human rights around the world.”

There has been no shortage of criticism of Modi’s human rights record among international watchdogs, whether it is accusations of running roughshod over the rights of Muslim minority groups or cracking down on free speech and dissent, after his Bharatiya Janata Party won re-election in May 2019.

“The Modi government continued its widespread practice of harassing and sometimes prosecuting outspoken human rights defenders, and journalists for criticizing government officials and policies,” said Human Rights Watch in its 2020 country report on India.

“The government failed to properly enforce Supreme Court directives to prevent and investigate mob attacks, often led by BJP supporters, on religious minorities and other vulnerable communities.”

In September, Amnesty International ended its work in India after the Modi government froze its bank accounts. “This is the latest in the incessant witch hunt of human rights organizations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations,” Amnesty said.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

Brandon Nathan Teixeira, charged in connection with a fatal 2017 shooting in South Surrey, is to return to court Feb. 2, 2021. (Canadian Press/File photo)
Pre-trial conference set for accused in 2017 South Surrey killing

Brandon Nathan Teixeira set to return to Vancouver court Feb. 2

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read