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

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

FILE PHOTO
Second doses of COVID-19 vaccine will be available, as AstraZeneca supply runs low: Interior Health

Province expecting large volumes of Pfizer BioNTech as age-based cohort immunization program ramps up

Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton, the historians behind popular Facebook page Lost Kootenays, are set to release a book of the same name and have just unveiled its cover showing the ghostly Hotel in Slocan City shortly before its 1953 demolition. Photo courtesy of Greg Nesteroff and Eric Brighton.
Popular historical Facebook page Lost Kootenays set to release book

128-page hard copy documenting history of East and West Kootenays coming this fall

1914
It happened this week in 1914

May 2 - 8: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read