OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday she is concerned about the safety of India’s diplomats following what she called an “unacceptable” poster for an upcoming protest in Toronto. The poster is the latest in a string of problems in recent weeks that have increased tension between Ottawa and New Delhi over Sikh
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday she is concerned about the safety of India’s diplomats following what she called an “unacceptable” poster for an upcoming protest in Toronto.
The poster is the latest in a string of problems in recent weeks that have increased tension between Ottawa and New Delhi over Sikh separatists in Canada.
The upcoming protest is planned in memory of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar who was killed last month in a shooting in Surrey, B.C. Niijar was a vocal opponent of India and supporter of an independent Sikh state, but police say they have found no link to India in their investigation.
The protest is to begin Saturday at the Great Punjab Business Centre in Mississauga, Ont. and end at the Indian consulate near downtown Toronto.
A poster for the event circulating on social media includes photos of India’s top two diplomats in Canada — High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma and Toronto Consul General Apoorva Srivastava — and refers to them as “the faces of Niijar’s killers in Toronto.”
The poster also includes the words “kill India.”
In a Monday evening tweet, Joly said Canada takes its international obligations to uphold the safety of foreign diplomats “very seriously.” She said Canada is in touch with Indian officials about the promotional materials for the protest “which are unacceptable.”
New Delhi has long accused Canada of harbouring extremists who want to carve out a state within India, but Ottawa says that freedom of speech means groups can voice political opinions if they don’t use violence.
Similar concerns raised ahead of Trudeau’s state visit to India in 2018 contributed to the trip’s difficulties. Trudeau may travel to India again later this year as the G20 leaders’ summit is scheduled for New Delhi in September.
Last month, India’s foreign minister condemned a parade float in Brampton, Ont. that portrayed the 1984 assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.
Indian media have reported that the high commission in Ottawa has formally asked the Canadian government to enhance protection for its senior diplomats, such as through escorts. The Canadian Press has asked the diplomatic mission to confirm these reports.
Earlier this year Verma raised concerns about a rowdy March 23 protest by Sikh groups at the high commission. While Indian media reported the use of grenades, Ottawa Police say they instead are “investigating the possible use of smoke canisters during the protest.” Their investigation is ongoing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2023.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press