Will the Canadian parliament, which honours terrorists, also pay respect to victims of the horrific 1985 Kanishka aircraft bombing?
On June 18, the Canadian parliament observed one-minute silence in memory of killed Khalistani terrorist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The speaker of the Canadian parliament said, “Based on discussions amongst all parties in the house, I understand there is an agreement to observe a moment of silence in memory of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, assassinated in Surrey, British Columbia, a year ago.” 

Normally, such honour is given to an individual who has contributed towards the nation.

It is possibly the first time in global history that a declared terrorist who posed with AK47’s and advocated armed uprising and violence is being treated as a ‘national hero.’ The incident soured the already frayed India-Canada relationship.

How much lower can Canadian politics fall?

It was also an attempt to gain sympathy votes of the Sikh community and support from Jagmeet Singh’s National Democratic Party (NDP). 

Justin Trudeau’s desperation to retain power comes at the cost of souring diplomatic ties with India, which are already at a low ebb.

However, many Sikhs are turning away from the NDP and their demands for Khalistan, while the rest of Indian-Canadians are anti Jagmeet Singh and his ideals. 

Trudeau’s personal popularity is sinking faster than the Titanic. His own party wants a change in leadership before the polls next year.

Justin Trudeau, returned after his embarrassing and disastrous G20 summit in India in September last year, only to announce in the parliament that India was behind the assassination of Nijjar, whom New Delhi had already declared as a terrorist.

The intent was to shift attention from his failed G20 visit, which was being mocked across the globe as he was stranded for an additional day. 

Till date, Canadian investigation into the killing of Nijjar remains incomplete. They arrested a few Sikhs claiming them to be behind the killing. Not a shred of evidence has emerged linking India to the crime.

Trudeau and PM Modi met briefly on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy recently. What transpired is not known but was possibly not pleasant. 

Modi only posted a picture of his meeting, while Trudeau mentioned to Canadian media, “I think there is an opportunity for us to engage, including on some very serious issues around national security and keeping Canadians safe and the rule of law that we will be engaging.” The Indian MEA issued no statement, not intending to insult Trudeau.

India has still not permitted Canadian diplomats, it ejected, to return. Even congratulatory messages exchanged post PM Modi’s re-election were curt. 

While Trudeau mentioned “rule of law” in his greetings, Modi responded with “mutual understanding and respect for each other’s concerns.” 

Relations between the two nations continue to remain distant mainly on account of Canada’s support to the Khalistan movement and its accusations of India, over which no evidence exists. 

Canada’s perfidy

Indian diplomats have repeatedly stated on global platforms, including in Canadian media that Ottawa is yet to share any evidence based on their investigations. These comments have never been countered by the Canadian foreign office, simply because they are true. 

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Khalistan supporters continue with their protests outside the Indian consulate, displaying floats praising the killers of former Indian PM, Indira Gandhi, which Trudeau considers as freedom of speech.

Pannun, the leader of SFJ (Sikhs for Justice) and a US-Canadian citizen, has been asking his supporters to assassinate PM Modi and also bomb Indian passenger aircraft. Despite making such statements, he receives protection from US and Canadian security agencies.

On the contrary, Indian origin, pro-Palestine supporter, Riddhi Patel only threatened to kill councillors of Bakersfield, in a protest speech, unless they supported Palestine, has been charged with 16 felony counts. What Riddhi Patel said is not freedom of speech but what Pannun says is. What a paradox!

Justin Trudeau accusing India of being behind the assassination of Nijjar as also New Delhi being the ‘second biggest foreign threat’ to its democracy has not only impacted diplomatic ties but also people to people trust. 

Conversely, it was Canada and its Khalistan supporters who worked to influence elections in India. Trudeau even commented on the farmer’s agitation for which he received a mouthful. 

Kanishka aircraft bombing

After all, it was during his father, Pierre Trudeau's premiership, that the infamous Kanishka aircraft bombing took place on June 23, 1985, which claimed 329 lives. 

There again, as is Trudeau family tradition, the investigation by Canadian agencies was botched up. Only one individual was finally charged. He was released well before his tenure ended, shocking families of the victims.

Others, including leaders of the Babbar Khalsa movement, who were behind the bombing, were protected. India has never forgotten Canadian lethargy in this investigation. It impacted India-Canada ties for a long time.

This year, in retaliation to Ottawa honouring Nijjar in its parliament, the Indian mission in Vancouver is organizing a memorial service on June 23 in memory of those killed in the Kanishka bombing.

A tweet by the mission said, “A Memorial Service is scheduled at 1830 hours on June 23, 2024 at the Air India Memorial at Stanley Park's Ceperley Playground area.” It encouraged members of the Indian diaspora to attend.

Would the Canadian parliament, which honours terrorists, also pay respects to victims of the most horrific aircraft bombing of the pre 9/11 era caused by members of the same terrorist movement whom they idolize. 

Would members of the Canadian parliament also attend the event, displaying solidarity with families of Canadian-Indians killed by terrorists based in their country, whom they let off.

India can also commence its parliament session on June 24 by observing a minute’s silence in memory of those killed in the Kanishka terrorist attack as a result of Canadian negligence and highlight Canada’s shortcomings.

But India won’t. It has far more mature leaders than Canada and does not seek to embarrass nations, despite their possessing expertise in botching investigations.

What Canada has done is to display that its political leaders lack maturity and farsightedness. The latest incident does little to inspire any confidence in its commitment to improve the frayed Indo-Canadian ties.   
*** The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed here are his own