Federal Silence on Security Risks Strains Canada-India Trade Relations

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Despite the escalating tension between Canada and India, the federal government has not reached out to Saskatchewan, a key trade partner, about recent security concerns. These concerns have emerged following unverified claims made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, suggesting possible involvement by the Indian government in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader from British Columbia.

Prime Minister Trudeau unveiled these allegations in the House of Commons earlier this week, where he announced that an inquiry by Canadian intelligence services was underway to ascertain the credibility of the alleged link between India’s governance and Nijjar’s death. The severity of these claims, implied Saskatchewan Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison, cannot be understated and if substantiated, warrants earnest attention.

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However, Harrison expressed his consternation about this significant development and the pausing of trade negotiations with India due to these security concerns, without any notice given to provinces and territories. He also criticized Trudeau’s handling of the recent G20 summit in India, where negotiations for a new trade deal were suspended following strained rapport with New Delhi.

Accusations of instigating a conflict with India, a crucial trade market, for political advantages surfaced in a letter from Harrison to Ottawa last week. He pressed upon the need for Saskatchewan to receive routine updates on negotiations considering the province amounts to nearly one-third of Canada’s exports to India, contributing over $1 billion to its provincial economy. In a social media post, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe questioned Trudeau’s understanding of the impact on the trade relationship with India.

Seats of influence including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have all called for the accusations to be examined. Nevertheless, India’s Ministry of External Affairs has categorically dismissed these claims, interpreting them as distractions from Sikh separatist threats in Canada.

The aftermath of Nijjar’s death, who was killed outside his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., saw the Sikh community accusing the Indian government of orchestrating the killing to silence proponents of an independent Sikh nation. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has also condemned Trudeau for the lack of openness surrounding the issue.

Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan has expressed hope for normal relations with India to continue. Additionally, Harrison insists that all provinces and territories, including Saskatchewan, should be kept informed regarding the impact of these allegations on trade relationships, reiterating his hope that the federal government possesses concrete proof to support their allegations. However, he admitted that, “if they have such information, they have not shared it with the government of Saskatchewan.”

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.