Modi and Trudeau Clash Over Sikh Demonstrations


Prime Minister Narendra Modi reprimanded Canadian PM Justin Trudeau for allowing Sikh ethnic groups to demonstrate in front of the Indian consulate in Toronto recently. Modi raised this issue with Trudeau during the G20 summit in India over the past weekend.

“They (the Sikh community in Canada) are promoting separatism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” Modi said in a statement by the Indian government, as quoted by Reuters on Sunday (10/9).

Trudeau also responded to these protests in India. In a press conference following the G20 summit, Trudeau assured that “freedom of expression” is always protected in Canada.

“Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and peaceful protests,” Trudeau said. 

“At the same time, we are always here to prevent violence and counter hatred. The actions of a few individuals do not represent the entire community or Canada,” he added.

New Delhi has long complained to Canada about Sikh community demonstrations in the country. In June, India criticized Canada for allowing the Sikh community to use decorated vehicles in a parade depicting the assassination of the late Indian PM Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Indira Gandhi was killed by two of her own Sikh bodyguards. At the time, the conflict between the Indian government and Sikh militants was escalating.

India considered the Sikh community parade in Canada last June as a “glorification of violence committed by Sikh separatists.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of members of the Sikh community in Canada have been staging demonstrations in recent times to protest the murder of one of their leaders, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in June in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Sikh community in Canada accuses the Indian government of being responsible for Nijjar’s murder. Nijjar was the president of one of the Sikh temples in Canada and an activist for the formation of a Sikh state in northern India and parts of Pakistan.

India has labeled Nijjar as a terrorist fugitive.

Sikhs are one of the religious ethnic groups in India, with a total of about 26 million Sikhs worldwide. There are approximately 24 million Sikhs living in India, primarily in the state of Punjab.

Meanwhile, the largest Sikh population outside India is in the UK and Canada. Sikhism is even the fourth-largest religion in Canada.

The Sikh community demonstrations and the Modi-Trudeau meeting took place at a time when India-Canada relations remain tense. Earlier this September, Canada suspended talks on a proposed trade agreement with India.

This suspension came just three months after both countries agreed to explore this trade cooperation. Modi did not hold a bilateral meeting with Trudeau during the G20 summit, despite holding one-on-one meetings with several other leaders attending the summit.

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