Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Condemns Indian Officials for ‘Interference’

The matter concerns Indian officials' response to organizers of the annual Carabram festival in Brampton over separate Punjab and India pavilions.


Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office has condemned Indian officials in Canada for interfering in a cultural festival held outside Toronto, calling the interference “inappropriate.”

The matter, which took place last year, is said to have involved Indian consular officials trying to dissuade the annual Carabram festival in Brampton, Ontario, from having separate Punjab and India pavilions, the Globe and Mail reported on March 26.

“Interference in domestic affairs by foreign representatives in Canada is inappropriate,” Freeland’s spokesman, Adam Austen, wrote in an e-mail to the publication. “The federal government has no role in planning Carabram, but supports the right of its organizers to do so however they see fit.”

The matter was raised with Freeland in August 2017 by Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who said that the interference was “unwarranted and unwelcome.”

The Indian Consulate General in Toronto reportedly approached the organizers of Carabram to either cancel the Punjab pavilion, or merge it with the India pavilion. However, the Punjab and India pavilions were not merged.

“The only objection from the Indian government is they don’t want anybody who is talking about Khalistan, but they label everybody and say they are Khalistani if they wear a turban,” Prithpal Chagger, the president of the Punjab pavilion, said, according to the report.

“This type of unwarranted interference by Indian officials in a local cultural festival in Brampton was shocking,” Jeffrey wrote to Freeland. Indian officials had reportedly threatened to “go to the highest office in the country and cancel this festival.”

Relations between India and Canada recently took another hit when a former Khalistan separatist was found present at an event organized by the Canadian government in India during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit. Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted of attempting to murder a visiting Indian politician in 1986, was photographed with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Another Canadian leader, Jagmeet Singh — who is the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) — was also questioned recently for attending a rally where Sikh separatists were present.

The Indian government has been wary of the Canadian government for being sympathetic to the Khalistan movement. Prior to Trudeau’s India visit, gurdwaras in Canada and then in the United States and the United Kingdom banned Indian officials in 2017 from entering the Sikh temple in their official capacity.

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