Ontario’s ‘genocide’ motion on anti-Sikh riots may be a desperate bid for votes | world-news | Hindustan Times
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Ontario’s ‘genocide’ motion on anti-Sikh riots may be a desperate bid for votes

The motion may have resulted from a desperate ruling Liberal Party of Ontario in the province using it to try and win Sikh votes in the elections due next year

world Updated: Apr 12, 2017 16:32 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Support for the government of Premier Kathleen Wynne is cratering, according to a poll.
Support for the government of Premier Kathleen Wynne is cratering, according to a poll. (Sameer Sehgal/HT File Photo)

While India was livid at the Ontario assembly carrying a motion last week referring to events of 1984 as “genocide”, New Delhi also believes the bilateral relationship cannot be held hostage to parochial politics and there’s the necessity of looking at the “larger picture.”

The motion, moved by a member of the Provincial Parliament or MPP belonging to the ruling Liberal Party of Ontario had attracted a strong rejoinder from the Indian external affairs ministry. But the overall view is India and Justin Trudeau’s government in Canada need each other. In the case of the former, for instance, for support for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

The motion may have resulted from a desperate ruling party in the province using it to try and win Sikh votes in the elections due next year. Support for the government of Premier Kathleen Wynne is cratering and, according to a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute, she has a woeful 12% approval rating, the lowest among her peers in the country.

It also reflected the division within Canadian political parties in approaching the issue. MPP Dipika Damerla, also a minister in the Wynne government, was the only Indo-Canadian member of the Assembly to vote against the motion. In an email to Hindustan Times, she said, “It is common for members from all parties to introduce motions that have international significance. Regarding this motion, it was a free vote and I voted with my conscience, as did the other members from all three parties.”

Given the sensitivity of the matter, she may have chosen her words carefully, but Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai was blunt. In a statement, he said, “Today, there is outrage in the greater Indo-Canadian community that a motion was passed by the Ontario Legislature (the only one in the whole world) calling a terrible universally acknowledged criminal tragedy a genocide.

To call this tragic event a genocide only gives political fuel to a Sikh separatist movement that has been around for some time now, and will cause irreparable damage not only between India and Canada, but also within Canada’s own Indo-Canadian communities.”

This matter will certainly figure in future “interactions” between Indian and Canadian officials, including at the ministerial level.

For now, the effort is to look beyond it, but with the understanding that if this were to become to “template” or “benchmark” for other provinces, that development could hamper the Indo-Canada dialogue.