Trudeau affirms farmers' right to demonstrate after India criticizes his remarks

PM backs right to protest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada's envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers.

Trudeau was asked Friday about media reports in India that said Canada's high commissioner had been called on the carpet by the foreign ministry in New Delhi over remarks the prime minister offered in support of Indian farmers.

Trudeau said previously that he was concerned about the protests in India and that Canada would always support the right of farmers to be heard — remarks the Indian government now says amount to interference in its affairs and potentially damaging to its relations with Canada.

Asked Friday whether he thought his remarks were harmful to Canada-India relations, Trudeau doubled down and said Canada will always stand up for human rights and peaceful protests everywhere.

Indian farmers have been met with tear gas and water cannons while protesting new laws enacted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they say will subject them to corporate exploitation by driving down prices for their products.

Many of the farmers are Sikhs, and Indian media reports say Trudeau is playing to Canadians of Sikh origin by wading into the matter.

"Canada will always stand up for the right of peaceful protest anywhere around the world. And we're pleased to see moves towards de-escalation and dialogue," Trudeau said Friday when asked about India's criticism of his remarks.

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no immediate comment when contacted Friday.

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