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India 2nd biggest foreign threat to Canada’s democracy after China: Canadian panel

A new report by a high-level Canadian parliamentary panel has concluded that India is the second biggest foreign threat to Canada’s democracy after China, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying his government takes the matter of foreign interference “very seriously”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government takes foreign interference “very seriously”. (AP)

The report by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a cross-party group of MPs and senators with top security clearances, comes when India-Canada ties are at an all-time low. The relationship cratered after Trudeau alleged last year that Indian government agents were involved in the killing of Khalistani operative Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a charge dismissed by New Delhi as “absurd”.

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The report was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office in May but tabled in Parliament, with redactions, this week. It described China as “clearly the most prolific actor” in the context of foreign interference in Canadian democracy.

“In its efforts to protect and enhance the legitimacy and stability of the Chinese Communist Party domestically and abroad, the PRC employs a comprehensive approach to targeting and leveraging virtually all aspects of Canada’s democratic processes and institutions to advance its strategic interests,” it said.

The report said India has “emerged as the second-most significant foreign interference threat to Canada’s democratic institutions and processes”, displacing Russia. India’s “foreign interference efforts have slowly increased” and extended beyond countering pro-Khalistan elements in Canada, it alleged.

These efforts now “include interfering in Canadian democratic processes and institutions, including through the targeting of Canadian politicians, ethnic media and Indo-Canadian ethnocultural communities”, said the report which mentions India 44 times in its 84 pages.

There was no immediate response to the report from Indian officials. New Delhi has dismissed similar allegations in recent months and instead accused Canadian officials of interfering in matters within India. The Indian side has also contended that Canada is harbouring Khalistani and other extremist elements and giving space to them to carry out anti-India activities.

The Canadian parliamentary panel’s report said some MPs had been influenced by other countries or had acted inappropriately in communicating with foreign missions. Some MPs may have also attempted to “improperly influence” their colleagues and shared “privileged information” with foreign diplomats. It further alleged some MPs may have received funding from foreign actors or their proxies.

Addressing the matter when it was raised in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Trudeau said: “This government is taking this very seriously.”

The report noted that “Pakistan also targeted democratic institutions and processes in the early phase of the period under review”. It also said China, India, Pakistan, and Iran engaged in “transnational repression”.

In this context, it cited the statement made by Trudeau on September 18 last year that there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18, 2023. Nijjar had been declared a terrorist by India.

NSCIOP was constituted in 2018 with the mandate of oversight on intelligence and security matters. It comprises members from the House and the Senate and is headed by Liberal Party MP David McGuinty.

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