Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced on Thursday that Canada has removed 41 ambassadors from India due to a disagreement over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader, but Ottawa would not retaliate.
Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s citation of what he considered to be reliable evidence of a possible connection between Indian operatives and the June shooting death of 45-year-old Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia, New Delhi requested last month that Ottawa lessen its diplomatic presence.
According to Joly, unless the ambassadors withdrew by Friday, India threatened to unilaterally cancel their official status. She claimed that this action was irrational, unheard of, and blatantly against the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“Given the implications of India’s actions on the safety of our diplomats, we have facilitated their safe departure from India. If we allow the norm of diplomatic immunity to be broken, no diplomats anywhere on the planet would be safe. So for this reason, we will not reciprocate,” she told a press conference.
In India, Canada currently maintains 21 diplomats. Forty-two dependents went with the 41 departing.
India has scorned Trudeau’s conjectures that its operatives were involved in the killing of Nijjar, a Canadian national whom New Delhi had designated as a “terrorist.”
Approximately 2 million Canadians, or 5% of the country’s total population, are of Indian descent. India accounts for about 40% of study permit holders in Canada, making it the country from which most international students come.
The departure of the diplomats meant that Canada would reduce the number of embassy employees who dealt with immigration, according to Immigration Minister Marc Miller. “We acknowledge the concerns and frustrations that this situation may cause for clients, families, educational institutions, communities, businesses in Canada as a whole,” he told the press conference. According to him, visa application centres in India are run by independent contractors and would not be impacted.