India asks Canada to ensure security at Independence Day celebration events

TORONTO: For the first time ever, the Indian government has called upon Canada to ensure adequate security during Independence Day celebrations at missions in the country but to also prevent the disruption of events organised by the Indo-Canadian community.

This was conveyed by India’s high commission in Ottawa to Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry, in a diplomatic communique. It came as the community prepares to observe August 15 with public in-person events for the first time since 2019 as Covid-19 related restrictions ease.

A senior Indian official confirmed that this was the first time India has broadened its security request for Independence Day from enhanced measures at its diplomatic premises in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, to guarding “Indian interests” related to community events across the country.

The official clarified that such celebrations were organised by Canadian citizens but the “broader” concern was due to the large presence of Indian citizens including students and children. “We recognise this is an internal matter for Canada, but we encourage Canadian authorities to ensure their safety as well,” the official said.

Indian officials said there was information that pro-Khalistan and pro-Pakistan Kashmiri outfits were “planning to disrupt” such events.

Last year, the non-profit Panorama India organised an event for August 15 in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga but there were disturbances caused by protesters reported at the time.

Similarly, organisers of a Tiranga Rally in Vancouver to mark Republic Day in 2021 faced protesters at their workplaces following the event. That came after India’s consulate in Vancouver was blockaded by protesters on January 26 that year, amid pro-Khalistan speeches and slogans.

The showpiece event this year will be the India Day parade in Toronto, organised by Panorama India, which will include floats from various states and community groups. It will culminate at a public celebration in downtown Toronto. In 2019, this event had attracted over 50,000 people of Indian origin. In British Columbia, Indo-Canadian groups are planning a large car rally from the town of Surrey in the Metro Vancouver region.

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