Foreign Minister Freeland calls interference by Indian diplomats in Brampton festival “inappropriate”

Chrystia Freeland

THE Globe and Mail newspaper on Monday reported online that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s spokesperson wrote in an email to Canada’s most prestigious newspaper that Indian diplomats should not have interfered in the annual Carabram festival in Brampton, a city in Ontario that has a very significant Sikh population.

Calling it “inappropriate,” he said the federal government has no role in planning the festival, but the organizers had the right “to do so however they see fit.”

It has been alleged that last summer Indian consular officers objected to having separate pavilions for India and Punjab.

According to Wikipedia: “With 27,704,236 inhabitants at the 2011 census, Punjab is the 16th-largest state by population … The main ethnic group are the Punjabis, with Punjabi Sikhs (57.7%) forming the demographic majority, followed by Hindus (38.5%).”

The Globe and Mail reported that Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey wrote to Freeland in August  2017 about “unwarranted and unwelcome interference” by the Consulate General of India. She alleged that the consular officers tried to get the organizers to cancel the Punjab pavilion or have it as a part of the India pavilion. They also reportedly tried to pressure the organizers to change the name to the Punjabi cultural pavilion.

Jeffrey called such behaviour “shocking” and asked Freeland to look into the matter. She also alleged that it is her understanding that consular officials threatened to “go to the highest office in the country and cancel this festival.”