The India-Canada relationship was already sailing through troubled waters when Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau accused India of killing Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil without any evidence. His repeated attack on India, followed by Khalistani terrorists threatening the Indian Diaspora, worsened the relationship between the two nations. India recently called out Canada for sheltering gangsters, terrorists and criminals who are among the most wanted in India.
Other than Canada, only a handful of nations, including Pakistan and China, have sour relations with India. Interestingly, the family-run foundation of Justin Trudeau received a heavy donation from a person linked to China that has put it under scanner in Canada. Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation was founded in 2001. It is named after former Canadian Prime Minister and Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau. Often called the Trudeau Foundation, the charity has been receiving substantial donations since Trudeau became Prime Minister.
Charity’s annual reports show that in the fiscal year 2014, it received donations worth CAD 1,22,151, which rose to CAD 6,34,461 in the fiscal year 2015 when Trudeau became PM. The financial statement for the 2021-22 financial year states it received CAD 6,32,592 in donations. Trudeau Foundation benefitted from Justin holding on to the country’s Prime Minister position.
The China link and election meddling
On 28th February, The Globe And Mail reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service tapped a conversation from 2014 between an unnamed China consulate in Canada and billionaire Zhang Bin. Bin is a political advisor to the Chinese government. Furthermore, he is a senior official in Beijing’s network of state promoters worldwide. The reports came at a time when the Canadian government was under pressure to investigate China and Russia’s alleged interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections.
As per the report, they discussed that there was a possibility that Liberals would defeat Conservatives in the 2015 elections. The diplomat instructed Bin to donate CAD 1 million to the Trudeau Foundation. It was further discussed that the Chinese government would reimburse Bin the money.
After Justin became PM in October 2015, Bin attended a fundraiser organised by the Liberal Party in Toronto, home of the Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chair Benson Wong. Justin was the guest of honour at the event.
Later, the Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal announced that Bin and another Chinese businessman, Nui Gensheng, pledged to donate $1 million. Out of the money from the Chinese businessmen, CAD 2,00,000 went to the foundation.
Following the controversy, Justin’s office released a statement saying he had nothing to do with the foundation since he became leader of the Liberal Party. The Canadian government was under immense pressure to investigate Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections. Reportedly, China allegedly covertly supported candidates in the elections, most of them Liberals. Soon after the controversy, foundation president Pascale Fournier said the donor reimbursed the money.
In March 2023, former Governor General David Johnston was appointed to head the committee formed to investigate election meddling allegations. However, his appointment was clouded by the allegations of him being close to the Trudeau family. Reportedly, Johnston was close to Pierre Trudeau. When Johnston was first appointed, CBC had reported that Trudeau and Johnston families often vacationed together.
In April 2023, the foundation’s president and board resigned due to controversy. The foundation said the controversy “has put great pressure on the foundation’s management and volunteer board of directors, as well as on our staff and our community.”
CBC News reported that the foundation issued a cheque to return the money soon after the controversy erupted. However, Radio-Canada reported the money was not returned as the cheque was not cashed. Interestingly, no one was able to accept the cheque issued by the foundation on behalf of the corporation that donated the money.
In May 2023, despite the pressure from the opposition, Justin Trudeau defended Johnston and said he would continue to investigate the alleged meddling in the elections. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre called Johnston’s position a “fake job” owing to his connections to the Trudeau family.
In June 2023, David Johnston resigned from the post over allegations of bias. “When I undertook the task of the independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, my objective was to help build trust in our democratic institutions,” the former governor general wrote in his resignation letter sent to Justin. “I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect,” he added. Johnston claimed despite being friends with the Trudeau family, he was not in contact with them for over 40 years.
Months after his resignation, Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue was selected for the investigation in September 2023.
On September 21, the Commons Public Accounts Committee ordered the Auditor General to investigate taxpayers’ money used to bankroll the Trudeau Foundation. Notably, in a June hearing, Foundation chair Edward Johnson had said that the Foundation had two investments in the Chinese portfolio, including shares in Tencent Holdings Limited, a Shenzhen video game maker, and software company Baidu.com. In a statement, Bloc Québécois MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné, who sponsored the motion to audit the Foundation’s funding, questioned how it received public funds worth CAD 125 million in 2002 as no other foundations have received public funds as the Trudeau Foundation did.
Canada PM accused India of killing Khalistani terrorist on Canadian soil
Tensions rose between India and Canada after Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau accused India of involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil. Canada expelled an Indian diplomat after the allegations, but other allied countries refused to issue a joint statement against India.
In retaliation, India denied the allegations and expelled a Canadian diplomat. The dispute led to India stopping visa issuance to Canadian citizens and halting trade talks between the two countries. India had previously expressed concerns about increasing Khalistani activities in Canada, including speeches by Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun during a so-called Khalistan referendum. It was also revealed that Nijjar was on the US No Fly list, leading to questions about why Canada was providing a haven for designated terrorists and organized crime, as noted by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
Pierre Trudeau shielded Khalistani terrorists
Trudeau’s family has a history of siding with Khalistani terrorists. His father, Pierre Trudeau, had refused the extradition request of Khalistani terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar in 1982. As per reports, in that year, the Indian government under then-PM Indira Gandhi had sought the extradition of Parmar, who was accused of killing police officers. However, the Pierre Trudeau-led government declined the request.
In his book ‘Blood For Blood’, Canadian journalist Terry Milewski wrote about his incident. He said, “Canada can’t be compared to Pakistan as a springboard for Khalistani militants in the past forty years, but it has offered them the great advantage of a congenial legal and political environment. The meek Canadian response to the Khalistani challenge was a frequent target of Indian politicians as far back as 1982 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi complained about it to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.”
Parmar was the head of the Khalistani terrorist organization Babbar Khalsa. Later, in 1985, the organization bombed an Air India plane called Kanishka in midair off the coast of Ireland. A total of 329 people were killed in the attack, out of which 268 were Canadian citizens. Notably, Khalistani terrorists had vowed to kill at least 50,000 Hindus. Furthermore, Parmar had threatened that Indian planes would fall from the sky.