Amarinder protests cancellation of Canada meetings

Chandigarh, April 22 : Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has lodged a “strong protest” with the Canadian government over the alleged denial of permission for his proposed “interactive meetings” with the Punjabis living in Toronto and Vancouver.

After his political meetings with non-resident Indians in Canada were cancelled, Amarinder shot off an angry letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lodge a “strong protest” on the issue.

“It feels like a gag order that has left a very bad taste, more so when issued by a democratic government like the Canadian,” said Amarinder, who is also deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha.

Amarinder Singh embarked on a 20-day visit to the United States and Canada on April 19 to muster political and financial support from Punjabi NRIs. Elections for Punjab’s 117-member assembly are scheduled to be held early next year.

The Congress leader is scheduled to undertake a trip to Canada from April 23 to 30. He earlier met Punjabi NRIs in Chicago in the US this week.

Quoting the Canadian Constitution, the Congress leader said he “neither represented any government at the moment, nor was organising any election campaign since there are no elections scheduled in Punjab right now or in the immediate future”.

“I have no intention or purpose to establish any political party or movement in Canada,” Amarinder said in the letter.

The Congress leader — a parliament member from Amritsar in Punjab — had to cancel his political rallies in Canada following objections raised with the Canadian government.

“On the request of the Canadian foreign ministry, Amarinder Singh has cancelled his plans to hold political rallies in Toronto and Vancouver,” his spokesman said here.

The spokesman said Amarinder Singh was informed by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar that the Canadian rules, under its Global Affairs Policy, prevent foreign governments and individuals from conducting election campaigns in Canada.

“Since his political conference could have violated the rules of the host country, he has decided to cancel them,” the spokesman said.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a human rights advocacy group, had lodged a complaint with the Canadian government through a law firm against the election activities planned by Amarinder Singh.

The Global Affairs of Canada (GAC) policy mentions that the Canadian government “will not allow foreign governments to conduct election campaigns in Canada or establish foreign political parties and movements in Canada”.

Amarinder said he was not the organiser of any of the proposed programmes but Canadian citizens living there, who are entitled to “fundamental freedoms” in accordance with the Canadian Constitution. He said he was to go to these events only as a guest.

“I had planned to visit Canada to interact with my fellow Punjabis at a personal level to learn about their experiences and seek their opinions. They, being the citizens of Canada, do not have any voting rights in India. There is no point in carrying out election campaign among them, and that too when there are no elections scheduled in Punjab right now or in the immediate future,” the Congress leader said.

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