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"Will be there to protect your rights": Canada PM Trudeau marks Khalsa day in Toronto

Ottawa: Even as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked up to address the Sikh Community in Toronto loud pro-Khalistan slogans were raised from the crowd. Trudeau in a staunch assurance to the Sikh Community in the country has said that the government is always there to protect their rights and freedoms at all costs.
He said that diversity is one of Canada's greatest strengths, and the country is strong not in spite of the differences, but because of those differences.
"One of Canada's greatest strengths is its diversity. We are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of our differences; but even as we look at these differences, we have to remember, and get reminded on days such as this, and every day, that Sikh values are Canadian values..." Trudeau said during the Khalsa Day Celebrations on Sunday in Toronto.
"To the nearly, 800,000 Canadians of Sikh heritage across this country, we will always be there to protect your rights and your freedoms, and we will always defend your community against hatred and discrimination," he asserted.
The Canadian PM also noted that the country is enhancing the security and infrastructure programmes by "adding more security at community centres and places of worship, including Gurdwaras."
"Your right to practice your religion freely, and without intimidation is exactly that. A fundamental right guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of rights and Freedoms that we will always stand up and defend you for," Trudeau assured the Sikh community in his Khalsa Day address.
However, as Trudeau spoke, there were many pro-Khalistan chants also heard in the background.
Trudeau, as he continued his address, said "I know many of you have loved ones that you want to see more often, that is why our government has negotiated a new agreement with India to add more flights, and more routes between our countries, and we will keep working with our counterparts to add even more flights, including to Amritsar."
Thousands of people flocked to downtown Toronto on Sunday for one of the biggest yearly gatherings in the city.
The Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council (OSGC) states that Vaisakhi, also called Khalsa Day, commemorates the founding of the Sikh community in 1699 as well as the Sikh New Year.
The group has been organising an annual parade down Lake Shore Boulevard for many years; the council claims that it is the third-largest parade in the nation and that it regularly draws thousands of spectators, according to CBC News.
Trudeau's remarks come at a time when the diplomatic relations between India and Canada are going through a difficult phase.
It was notably, the killing of India-designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, that sparked a row between India and Canada.
Nijjar, who was designated a terrorist by the National Investigation Agency in 2020, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on the evening of June 18, 2023.
The video of his killing that reportedly surfaced in March recently, showed Nijjar being shot by armed men in what has been described as a 'contract killing'.
The killing led to accusations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the government of India had a hand in the killing -- a claim that was denied by India and led to the deterioration of diplomatic ties between Canada and India.
The video shows Nijjar leaving the parking lot of the Gurdwara in his grey Dodge Ram pickup truck.
As he approaches the exit, a white sedan pulls in front of him, blocking his truck. Two men then run up and shoot Nijjar before escaping in a silver Toyota Camry, CBC News reported.
In September last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made allegations of Indian involvement in Nijjar's killing on Canadian soil. India had, however, rejected the allegations, calling them "absurd and motivated."
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Canada has not been able to present any evidence to back its claims over the killing.

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