A day after being denied permission to hold rallies in Canada, Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Friday lodged a protest with the Canadian government calling it a “gag order”.
“It feels like a gag order that has left a bad taste, more so when issued by a democratic government like the one in Canada,” he said.
In a strongly-worded letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, quoting the Canadian constitution to make his point, Amarinder, he was disappointed and questioned the premise on which the permission had been denied.
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Following a complaint by a US-based anti-India group under the provisions of Global Affairs of Canada (GAC), the Canadian government asked Capt Amarinder not to attend the programmes hosted by the Canadian citizens of Indian origin. The GAC policy which has been invoked to deny him permission mentions that the Canadian government “will not allow foreign governments to conduct election campaigns in Canada or establish foreign political parties and movements in Canada”. Amarinder clarified that he neither represented any government at the moment, nor was he organising any election campaign since there are no elections scheduled in Punjab right now or in immediate future. Besides, he added, he had no intention or purpose to establish any political party or movement in Canada.
He said he had not organised any of the programmes himself as these had been organised by Canadian citizens, who were entitled to various “fundamental freedoms” in accordance with the Canadian constitution. He pointed out that he was there to be as their guest.
He said, he had “planned to visit Canada to interact with my fellow Punjabis at personal level to learn about their experiences and seek their opinions”. They, being the citizens of Canada, do not have any voting rights in India, he pointed out, while adding, hence, there was no point in carrying out election campaign amongst them and that too when there were no elections scheduled in Punjab right now or in immediate future.
Asserting that his government’s “gag order” undermined the “fundamental freedoms” guaranteed in the Canadian constitution, he said, it was not only he who had been denied these freedoms. “Being an Indian citizen I have no claims to the freedoms you guarantee to your citizens. But this gag order has denied these freedoms of “expression”, “peaceful assembly” and “association”, to the Canadian citizens, who are the same people who have immensely contributed towards building up this beautiful country and you have yourself acknowledged that”, he wrote.