Even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in India for the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Sunday, Khalistani secessionists held a so-called ‘Referendum’ in Surrey, British Columbia. Designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the founder of the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), was present at the gathering of the Khalistani separatists held at the Guru Nanak Singh Gurudwara in Surrey, Vancouver.
In a provocative speech, Pannun used intimidating language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and other leaders. He claimed that the separatists were challenging the territorial integrity of India. Prime Minister Modi had on Sunday raised “strong concerns” about the continuous “anti-India activities” by extremist elements in Canada in his pull-aside meeting with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
Prime Minister Modi stated that it was essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats. “The Prime Minister conveyed our strong concerns about the continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada. They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
It added, “The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates, and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats”. Prime Minister Modi also mentioned that a relationship based on mutual respect and trust is essential for the progress of the India-Canada relationship.” After his meeting with PM Modi, Trudeau said in a news conference that he had many conversations with PM Modi on the issue of Khalistan extremism and “foreign interference”, and Canada would always defend freedom of expression and, at the same time, will always be there to prevent violence.
He further emphasized that the “actions of the few” do not represent the entire community or Canada. “Both the issues came up. Over the years, with PM Modi, we have had many conversations on both of those issues. Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and freedom of peaceful protest, which are extremely important to us. At the same time, we are always there to prevent violence and to push back against hatred,” Trudeau said. He added, “I think on the issue of the community, it is important to remember that the actions of the few do not represent the entire community or Canada. On the flip side of it, we also highlighted the importance of respecting the rule of law, and we did talk about foreign interference”.
Earlier this month, Canadian authorities revoked permission to hold the so-called ‘referendum’ at a public school in Canada after concerns were raised over promotional materials that featured pictures of a weapon. The referendum was scheduled to be held at Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey, Canada, on September 10.