Canada-India tensions grew during the recent G20. But the bombshell Trudeau dropped yesterday in the House of Commons multiplied those tensions. The prime minister now alleges the government of India is involved in the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia. The words Trudeau read in the House are carved in ambivalence, claiming that there are “credible allegations about a potential link.” In short, there is no evidence. Later, he mentioned facts, but he has offered none.
One has to wonder why bring these tenuous allegations to light now? Why is the Trudeau government set on whipping up a crisis with an ally instead of waiting for evidence?
The Importance of India
The Canada-India friendship is important: Canada and India have a long-standing partnership dating back to 1947. It is anchored on shared parliamentary democratic values, and a close bond formed through trade, education, and cultural interaction.
Combined trade between the countries has increased steadily, reaching around $8.4 billion in 2020. This relationship bolsters both economies and creates business opportunities. Educational ties also bind Canada and India, with a high number of Indian students pursuing higher education in Canada – over 200,000 in 2020.
Cultural exchange is a critical aspect of the Canada-India relationship. The significant Indian diaspora in Canada adds to the cultural bond, as they actively partake in various cultural activities enhancing the plural aspect of Canadian society. This mutually beneficial friendship also aids in regional and global stability.
India’s Foreign Ministry emphatically denies Justin Trudeau’s allegations. Someone is wrong or not telling the truth, or both. I don’t know much about Prime Minister Modi’s habits and relationship with truth, but I do know that Justin Trudeau is divorced from it. So, Canadians should wisely wait to see evidence instead of potential links.
There is some baggage between the Trudeaus and India. Ours is a prime minister who has donned blackface more times than he can remember, mocking people of colour and wearing turbans. Indians know this, and they saw Trudeau condescendingly dressed like a bad Bollywood character to attract their attention in the 2018 trip. Canadians may have forgotten about this but Indians have not.
In India, Canadians, and Liberals especially, have a reputation for sympathizing with Khalistan separatists, many of whom are violent terrorists. That perception is intergenerational: Pierre Trudeau had an opportunity to extradite at India’s request the master mind of the murderous Air India attack, before the attack took place, but PET chose not to. The denial, which Indians see as sympathy, cost hundreds of lives.
And then there is the Trudeau alliance with Jagmeet Singh. Since 2013, Jagmeet Singh has been barred from travelling to India for his Khalistan sympathies. He holds the infamous privilege of being the first foreign legislator from a democratic county to be denied entry into the country.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Khalistan nationalist, wanted in India. According to the National Post, “he came to Canada in 1997, and claimed refugee status, having used a false passport to enter the country. His refugee claim was rejected, but 11 days after that, he married a woman who sponsored him for immigration. That, too, was rejected, although Nijjar called himself a Canadian citizen, and Trudeau referred to him as such in the House of Commons on Monday.”
So it appears that Nijjar was no angel. By the looks of it, he may have been one of those who brings to Canada hatred and animosities from overseas. But citizen or not, no sovereign country wants foreign operatives assassinating residents in its own soil. Canada is within its rights to decry such activity, if it were true.
With all these things in mind, let’s return to the question posed above. Why does Trudeau choose to reveal these things now? Who gains from it? What do this week’s events mean for the Trudeau government and for the Canadian political scene?
What does it all mean?
There are nine separate reasons I can think of for Trudeau to rush into condemning India:
- Trudeau is in a slump. This is not a reference to opinion polls but to his mood, as I pointed out here last week. There is need to put him at the center of a hero narrative to bring him out of it and get it ready to fight in this new and crucial parliamentary session. The way the story is being cast, Trudeau is now the hero of democratic values, defender of our sovereignty and the Rule of Law, standing up against extra-judicial killings.
- That India happens to be the country Trudeau just visited, which humiliated him by not giving him the spotlight Trudeau always thinks he deserves everywhere he goes, is not a coincidence. The tensions were heightened before Trudeau got to India, which led to the cancelling of the decade-long Canada-India bilateral trade talks a week earlier. No reason was given at the time. Justin’s absence from the big G20 dinner in Delhi suddenly seems like it was much more than Justin being placed the table closest to the staff bathrooms.
3. This may be an ego-boosting exercise for the local market, but it also raises the visibility of the prime minister in the international arena as he heads into New York City for the UN meetings today (Tuesday, Sept 19). Under the aura of an international crisis, albeit contrived, the eyes of the Canadian and the international press will be on him (Some planted journalist will likely ask him about the probability of heightened conflict o war with India. Watch! Trudeau will deliver a well-rehearsed script about protecting democratic values in a world of rising right-wing intolerance).
4. The attention focused on Delhi serves as a distraction from Beijing’s interference at the start of the Parliamentary session. The alleged Delhi-backed assassination will feed the narrative of interference from India. No one will ask about Beijing, and if someone does, every answer Liberals will give in and outside the Commons will shift right back to India.
5. The hurried finger-pointing to India is a price extracted from the Khalistan member of the government coalition. Jagmeet Singh has already taken advantage of the situation and issued threats on Twitter that he will hold Indian PM Narendra Modi accountable. How will the leader of a third party from a third-tear power do that? Trudeau pays this price to guarantee continued support from Singh at time Trudeau’s popular national support is in shambles.
6. Similarly, Trudeau uses this contrived crisis to show the skeptics in his own caucus that he can do whatever it takes to keep them in office. It quells dissent inside the LPC. It shows caucus that he can keep Jagmeet Singh interested and in line.
7. India has already done the only thing it can do: expel a Canadian diplomat in return. That escalates the tensions with largest Liberal democracy, which is the desired effect. We know how good Prime Minister Trudeau is about exploiting people’s anxieties, whether they are over health, the economy, and now over a potential international conflict.
8. A conflict between India and Canada benefits China. In the last couple of weeks, there has been much attention and talk about the potential for China to invade Taiwan, Japan’s role and its increased military spending, the presence of half of Canada’s naval fighting capability near by, and whether the US will follow protect the island. China has heightened anxieties by keeping pressures on Taiwan. At the UN, every minute people talk about Canada-India, will be a minute China will not be mentioned. That is a win for China.
9. The distraction of the public from problems at home by redirecting attention to a manufactured conflict abroad is a long-established practice. Whether or not the allegations are true, it doesn’t matter. Justin Trudeau has an international scandal to distract Canadians from inflation, housing shortages, the Barber-Lich kangaroo persecution case, Chinese interference in Canadian affairs, and more importantly the abysmal showing of the Liberals in the polls affecting the PM’s disposition.
The consequences of the hurried crisis are serious. More wasted opportunities for advancing comprehensive trade talks, and the further damaging of the Canada-India relationship. A frosty situation with India is largely China’s gain. The Canada-India tensions project instability and will keep businesses and investors away from each other’s country. That is a mutual loss to Canada and India.
Trudeau and Singh both win so far. In the meantime, Pierre Poilievre may have been outmaneuvered a little, judging from his initial reaction. He can not side with India, even if India is right, but he should demand evidence and make sure Trudeau does not go overboard in whipping up his little crisis. He’s got to figure out ways to bring attention back to food prices, housing shortages and the endless ineptitudes of the current government.
To receive new posts as they are published and to support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber to our Substack here.