India Toes a Cautious Line on Canada's Truckers’ Protest Amid Widespread Public Criticism of Trudeau

© GEOFF ROBINSSupporters of the Truckers Convoy against the Covid-19 vaccine mandate block traffic in Canada bound lanes of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ontario, on February 8, 2022.
Supporters of the Truckers Convoy against the Covid-19 vaccine mandate block traffic in Canada bound lanes of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ontario, on February 8, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.02.2022
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on 14 February as a way to end the ongoing protests in Ottawa and other cities against COVID regulations. The Act gives the authorities sweeping powers to prohibit public assembly and even summarily arrest protestors who refuse to comply with official directions.
The Indian foreign ministry on Thursday said that New Delhi was "closely following" the developments in Canada, as it also reiterated its previous warning asking the Indian citizens living in the north American country to “remain alert”.

“We are following the developments in Canada in the context of blockades and protests. We have noted that the government of Canada has actually invoked the Emergencies Act,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said at the weekly media briefing.

He was answering questions from several journalists, who reminded him that Trudeau had been “very critical of the farmers’ agitation” in India in December 2020.
Back then, India had lodged a strong protest with the Canadian High Commissioner in New Delhi and warned that the actions could have a “seriously damaging impact” on bilateral ties. The Canadian leader had also raised the issue of India’s protesting farmers during a telephone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2021.
The Indian foreign ministry spokesman recalled that the India High Commission in Ottawa had on 8 February issued advice, in which it warned Indian citizens in Canada to “avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place”.

“Our High Commission in Ottawa continues to monitor the events there very closely and we will take whatever action is needed,” added Bagchi.

The cautious remarks by the Indian official accompany a surge of opposition against Trudeau among many Indians in recent days.
FILE PHOTO: Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings as truckers and their supporters take part in a convoy to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 29, 2022.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.01.2022
'Karma': Indians Get Back at Canada's Trudeau as Truckers' Protest Cripples Ottawa
Several leaders from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have slammed Trudeau for his recent actions, including ordering the freezing of bank accounts of people linked with the truckers’ protest.
According to the Emergency Economic Measures Order on 15 February, the Canadian government asked banks and other financial institutions to “cease” their relationship with people involved in “illegal blockades”, a decision which has drawn flak both domestically and internationally.

“And this was what [Justin Trudeau] said when there were street protests in India: ‘Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters,’ remarked BJP’s foreign policy chief Vijay Chauthaiwale, in response to the 15 February order.

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, another BJP politician from the Sikh community, has also slammed Trudeau for curbing the truckers’ “right to protest" by invoking the Emergencies Act.

“I believe that the imposition of the Emergency Act in Canada is against the norms of democracy,” he said in a video message on 15 February.

“There are many Sikhs living in Canada and I don’t want my criticism of the Canadian government to have any implications for them. However, I would like to state that we have even witnessed protests here in India in recent years. But the government here hasn’t resorted to such drastic measures to control these protests,” added Sirsa.
Another BJP politician, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, who is also of Sikh descent, meanwhile accused Trudeau of “murdering democracy” in Canada.

“Canadians are good people, but they voted for the wrong person,” Bagga remarked.

Sikhs comprise nearly 1.5 percent of Canada’s population and many of the community members have maintained links with their families back in India. In 2019, Indians made up the fastest-growing immigrant community in Canada, comprising 25 percent of new entrants.
Besides reservations from India, several Indian-Canadian organisations have also criticised Ottawa's emergency measures.
“We are pained to witness recent developments in Canada relating to the use of draconian powers against the Freedom Convoy 2022 protesters," said a statement by Canada India Global Forum, an organisation based in Vancouver.
The forum advised Trudeau to learn from Prime Minister Modi as to how such protests can be handled, as it reminded the Canadian leader about the “gratuitous advice” he offered to New Delhi at the time of the farmers’ protest.
© Photo : Twitter/@CGIFBCReaction to Canada's Emergencies Act
Reaction to Canada's Emergencies Act - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.02.2022
Reaction to Canada's Emergencies Act
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