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Panel examining foreign interference in Canada to include India within its ambit

Dec 05, 2023 03:00 PM IST

Relations between India and Canada are already at their nadir after PM Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on September 18 that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of Khalistani figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Toronto: The Commission of Inquiry examining foreign interference in Canada will also include India within its ambit, as on Monday, it provided standing to an advocacy group that “could assist the commission better understand the impact of foreign interference on the Indian community in Canada”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with local women leaders to discuss affordability and child care, at the Royal Rose Art Gallery & Gifts, in Aurora, Ontario, on Friday. (AP)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with local women leaders to discuss affordability and child care, at the Royal Rose Art Gallery & Gifts, in Aurora, Ontario, on Friday. (AP)

That announcement came as part of a release issued by the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, which is headed by justice Marie-Josee Hogue.

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The group given standing to participate in the policy phase of the inquiry was Justice For All Canada (JFAC). While releasing the list of entities given standing for the inquiry, the commission stated that JFAC said “it is an active advocate for the Indian diaspora community in Canada. It indicates that the Indian diaspora has, for many years, lived with the fear of harassment, violence, and retribution from Indian foreign agents, which has limited their freedom of speech and full participation in the democratic process”.

However, the commissioner noted that JFAC was “not an Indian diaspora organisation as such, it does appear to have experience working with that community”. “I believe that, if necessary, it could assist the commission better understand the impact of foreign interference on the Indian community in Canada,” she said.

A website for JFAC shows it is based in Mississauga in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The executive director of the organisation is Pakistan-origin activist Taha Ghayyur.

While it was not possible to confirm whether it was the same group given standing by the commission, JFAC appears to have as one of its focus areas the Union Territory of Kashmir, though more recently, it has pivoted to the situation in Gaza following the operations by Israel there after the terrorist attacks by Hamas on October 7.

The commissioner noted that there were no other applicants to represent the Indo-Canadian community.

JFAC has issued reports including one on ‘The Nazification of India’.

Other than India, community organisations given standing include those representing diasporas from China, Russia and Iran.

The Government of Canada, as well the opposition Conservative Party have also been given standing.

The commission was created to ”respond to concerns about foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections”. That was based on reporting in the news outlets the Globe and Mail and Global News about Chinese interference in those elections allegedly in favour of the ruling Liberal Party. The commission will also “examine the flow of information within the federal government in relation to these issues, evaluate the actions taken in response, assess the federal government’s capacity to detect, deter, and counter foreign interference, and make recommendations on these issues”.

It is expected to complete an interim report by February 29, 2024 and deliver its final report by December 31, 2024.

Relations between India and Canada are already at their nadir after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the House of Commons on September 18 that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of Khalistani figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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