Jamie Sarkonak: Canada a lion to India, a lamb to China

Approximately 200 people protest outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver, BC Saturday, June 24, 2023. © Provided by National Post

Canada is an international crossroads — a cultural borderland, of sorts. In the same way that Ukraine has historically been the area of exchange between Russia and Western Europe, Canada is a place of cultural exchange between the West and the rest of the world.

But this positioning also makes the country a zone of conflict. Two deaths of significance, which have varying degrees of potential political involvement, have highlighted this fact. The bewildered Canadian response to these (alleged) transgressions reveals the utter lack of a game plan when it comes to managing the international push-and-pull that comes with a passive policy on multiculturalism.

Take the India affair. In June, Sikh-Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar (and indeed, he was a citizen as of 2007, despite the initial rejection of his refugee and citizenship claims in 1998 and 2001, respectively) was gunned down outside his gurdwara in June. The Canadian response has been shockingly explosive.

Canada abruptly denounced India in the House of Commons for the matter on Monday, declaring that our intelligence agencies have been “actively pursuing credible allegations” of government participation in the killing. Trudeau declined to explain his evidence for the accusation, but reporting has since indicated that the allegations are backed by intelligence gathered by Canada and an unnamed Five Eyes partner, which includes communications of Indian diplomats in Canada.

The consequences were immediate. Trade talks were dropped with India prior to the announcement, and since the announcement, Foreign Affairs Minister M é lanie Joly expelled the head of Indian intelligence in Canada. India’s response to everything: no more visas for Canadians, and a snarky travel advisory warning Indian students from studying here.

Depending on who you ask, Nijjar was an activist — a freedom fighter, calling for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India. Alternatively, he was a terrorist. India accused him of such, alleging that he was responsible for a 2007 bombing in Punjab and for running a separatist training camp in British Columbia. In 2016, the Times of India reported that the Punjab government asked the Canadian government to send Nijjar over for prosecution — a request that Global Affairs Canada would not “confirm or deny” at the time . Evidently, the request was declined.

If a cell of AK-toting Quebecois formed a loud and proud cell in another country, I can see Canada being concerned. If Canada ordered a hit in another country, though, I would completely understand that country’s outrage.

Outrage isn’t the Canadian reaction to a parallel situation with China, however. Overshadowed by the India fight is a Global News report of an RCMP investigation into the suspicious suicide of Wei Hu, a Canadian citizen who, on the run from China, had previously told a friend “if he died of an accident or committed suicide … ‘don’t believe.’”

Police are now exploring whether Hu’s death was linked to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party, which has been known by the United States FBI to pressure “targets” abroad into suicide. Hu had been pursued for supposed financial crimes, and had spoken out against the Chinese government. Not the same thing as being gunned down outside a temple, but it’s yet another allegation of foreign interference backed by enough evidence to elicit an investigation.

And yet, no grand declaration against China in Parliament followed.

Canada had a reason to walk on eggshells during the nearly-two-and-a-half years during which China held citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in prison — but that time has since passed. Even after they were released, however, Foreign Minister Joly reacted meekly, signaling to the press that the Michaels had “bail” conditions that “we want to make sure we work that out with the Chinese government.”

Since then, it’s been more muted responses to Chinese interference. Chinese “police stations” have been operating in Canada; while RCMP sit and watch as they continue to operate, these stations have even received federal funding. Chinese scientists were mysteriously booted from Canada’s highest-security biolab in 2019 — a matter that largely remains without answers. (Were they spies? Tune in to Parliament this fall to see if MPs finally figure it out!) And don’t forget the stalled election interference probe, which is supposedly going to conclude with a report in late 2024.

It is sure odd that Canada is willing to go scorched earth on another Commonwealth country with (so far) scant evidence, while doing everything it can to put out fires that China keeps lighting at our feet.

Multiculturalism tries to balance a mosaic of identities into one Canada. But when trouble follows different shards of that mosaic home, Canada can’t give one strong, uniform response. When it comes to defending against foreign interference, ancestry does seem to matter. The mosaic isn’t as balanced as we’d like to think.

Source: National Post