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

Caroline Lafond is a Recreation Fish and Wildlife student at Selkirk College. Photo: Submitted
Ecological Comment: Help keep the goats of Gimli wild

A column written by Recreation Fish and Wildlife students at Selkirk College

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Nelson Police responded to 802 calls last year they say had an element of mental health. File photo
Nelson Police: 802 mental-health related calls in 2020

That accounts for 12 per cent of total calls for service

Several large trees came down in the recent windstorm and destroyed a part of the building that houses Camp Koolaree’s showers and boy’s washroom. The camp has served generations of Kootenay families since 1931 as the Nelson area’s longest running children’s summer camp. Photo: Submitted
Camp Koolaree’s wash house destroyed by January windstorms

The camp is in need of donations to make repairs

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

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

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read