Toronto, Canada: Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal cancelled his planned 10-day visit to Canada on Thursday after the Canadian government said that they will not offer any immunity to him against any civil suit that may be filed against him there. They have also allegedly refused to provide him security during the trip.
Sukhbir was scheduled to tour Canada to hold meetings with Canadian officials and business leaders from September 13 to 22.
Holding Sukhbir and Punjab police chief Sumedh Singh Saini responsible for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”, American Sikhs groups through an NGO Canadian Sikh Coalition had tried to file a case against Sukhbir in a Canadian court.
A confidential note sent on August 6 by the ministry of external affairs to the Punjab government, of which TOI has a copy, had warned Sukhbir to not go ahead with his scheduled visit.
“MEA’s assessment is that the proposed visit is not without significant risks to dignity and legal standing of the deputy CM. The Canadian government has also refused to provide any assessment of legal risks that Sukhbir may be exposed to if he visits Canada,” the note by MEA joint secretary Vikram K Doraiswami said.
The MEA admitted to having received inputs in the past of plans by a radical group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) to file a criminal case against deputy CM if he were to visit Canada in the note.
It said that it was unclear if there is immunity against criminal suit against Badal.
The SFJ which recently opened a branch in Canada had filed a similar case against Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal last year during his visit to Milwaukee in the US, forcing him to cancel his planned visit to the US in June.
The note was sent to Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh and additional director general of police of law and security Dinkar Gupta and also said that the Canadian government has refused to provide security to Sukhbir.
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will provide security cover to a visiting dignitary only if he or she is an international protectee and is so recognized by the government of Canada…It is therefore likely that security may not be afforded to our visitors,” the note said citing the Canadian government’s reply.
The MEA note went on to say that the Indian high commissioner in Canada has suggested that such an advance visit may not be necessary.
“It is distinctly unlikely that a visit to the Canadian Prime Minister will materialize,” the letter said.
Sukhbir hit back at the Canadian government, calling their decision “unfortunate”. “Whenever their heads of states visit we provide them full security. I am also heading a state. But it’s unfortunate that they have refused to give me security during this visit, which now stands cancelled,” he said.