While the episode is also drawing attention to the Modi government‘s hardline approach to national security and its treatment of minorities in India, Trudeau’s domestic standing and the reputation of his government, which survives on support from a pro-Khalistan Sikh leader, is taking a beating.
The Canadian Prime Minister spent much of Wednesday canvassing support at the United Nations for his sketchy allegation that New Delhi engineered the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a terrorist fugitive from India who emigrated to Canada — with little to show for it.Canadian officials said he met leaders of Kenya, Chile, Italy, Germany and the European Union and apprised them of the spat with India among other matters. But readouts from Trudeau’s office about the meetings made no mention of the issue, and none of the countries involved made any mention of the hot-button issue between Canada and India.
Instead, sections of the Canadian media zeroed in on the sketchy language of Trudeau’s accusation against New Delhi (“credible allegations” and “potential” links among other hedge language), suggesting he had jumped the gun in his eagerness to use the issue to shore up his political standing amid tanking poll numbers.
“It’s important to remember Trudeau’s accusation has yet to be proven….(he has) so far failed to provide any evidence to Canadians,” the National Post said in an editorial, pointing to “his use of vague language and lack of any specific intelligence.”
“If it turns out that Trudeau dropped this metaphorical bomb without having all his ducks in order, it will be a huge scandal, with massive domestic and geopolitical ramifications,” it added.
A recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute cited by the Canadian media showed Trudeau now has an approval rating of just 33 per cent, against a disapproval rating of 63 per cent. His Liberal government survives on support from the 24-member New Democratic Party, whose leader Jagmeet Singh is said to be sympathetic to the Khalistan cause.
Meanwhile, there is also renewed scrutiny of the slain extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whose deification as a saint is undermined by videos on social media showing him training with assault weapons and celebrating the assassination of Indian political leaders and an army general.
Disquiet about Trudeau’s coddling of the Khalistani constituency is also riffling through his Liberal Party, particularly after Nijjar’s lawyer, separatist gadabout Gurpatwant Pannu, warned Canadian Hindus to go back to India in a toxic hate video.
Accusing Pannu, a US-based Sikh extremist, of trying to provoke Hindu-Canadians and dividing Hindu and Sikh communities in Canada, Chandra Arya, an MP from Trudeau’s Liberal Party, pointed out that “vast majority of our Canadian Sikh brothers and sisters do not support Khalistan movement.”
“Most Sikh Canadians may not publicly condemn the Khalistan movement for several reasons but they are deeply connected to the Hindu-Canadian community. Canadian Hindus and Sikhs are connected through family relationships and shared social and cultural ties,” he said.
In an implicit condemnation of his own party leader and government, Arya tweeted, “I can’t understand how glorification of terrorism or a hate crime targeting a religious group is allowed in the name of freedom of speech and expression. There would be an outrage in Canada if a white supremist attacked any group of racialized Canadians asking them to get out of our country. But apparently this Khalistani leader can get away with this hate crime.”