'I don't know when we'll go': Montrealer's travel plans upended amid fraying Canada-India ties
Until this week, Sukhwinder Dhillon was set on making his first trip back to India in years sometime in the next few months.
“My father passed, and my brother passed,” said the 56-year-old Montrealer. “I want to go now.”
Dhillon had been planning to return to his birthplace in India's Punjab state to see family and sort out affairs with his deceased father's estate, but found himself forced to put the trip on hold.
Members of the Indo-Canadian community are reeling after the Indian government suspended visa services for citizens of Canada, upending travel plans for those set on visiting the country but now caught in the crossfire of a diplomatic blowup.
India's visa application centre in Canada announced an immediate halt on Thursday, widening a rift between the two states that broke open this week when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen.
Relations between the two countries have spiralled downward rapidly since Monday, when Trudeau told Parliament there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Gunned down in June outside the gurdwara he led in Surrey, B.C., he had been wanted by India for years.
Ottawa also expelled an Indian diplomat, and New Delhi followed suit by booting a Canadian representative on Tuesday and then issuing a travel advisory that warned of violence against Indian nationals and students in Canada. India’s External Affairs Ministry called the allegations being investigated in Canada “absurd” and an attempt to shift attention from the presence of Nijjar and other wanted suspects on Canadian soil.
Dhillon said his sense of unease with the country where he grew up has risen amid a ramp-up in hardline rhetoric from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist party.
“They say, 'Be careful, Hindu people, you're not safe in Canada,'" the grocery store owner said, paraphrasing the Aaj Tak news channel broadcasting in Hindi in the background. "But it's not like that here.”
Dhillon, who came to Canada in 1998, said he typically makes the trip back every two or three years, and hopes the visa halt will be short-lived.
“Where you’re born, where you grew up — you see this and you’re happy. Now I don’t know when we’ll go.”
In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited India, making them the fourth largest group, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.
Some 1.4 million residents of Indian descent call Canada home, according to the 2021 census, including about 772,000 Sikhs — the highest number of any country, save India.
For Mohinder Singh, who made the move across the Pacific Ocean a decade ago, nearly any reprisal from the Indian government would be a necessary cost of calling out alleged wrongdoing. That's true even amid the "big hinderance" for travellers.
"For a person who has relatives, it is important to travel for family or whatever reason, for business associations too," said the 48-year-old insurance broker, adding that he has loved ones in India and a strong emotional connection to his homeland.
"I was thinking of applying and going for a vacation, but if I have to postpone it, I don't care," he said. "You have to sometimes sacrifice for a bigger good."
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi confirmed a temporary suspension of all visa services for Canadians, including e-visas and visas issued in third countries.
"Security threats being faced by our high commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis," Bagchi told reporters.
He called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, saying they outnumbered India's staffing in Canada.
"We have informed the Canadian government that there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in our mutual diplomatic presence,” Bagchi said.
The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said Thursday that all of its consulates in India are open and continue to serve clients. It said some of its diplomats had received threats on social media, prompting it to assess its “staff complement in India.”
It added that Canada expects India to provide security for its diplomats and consular officers working there.
Business people are also worried about fallout from the diplomatic row.
Shaker Ahmed Choudhury, who manages a travel agency in Montreal, says nearly a third of his clientele are Indo-Canadian.
“We’ve got a lot of Indian customers, especially who are travelling to Amritsar, Punjab.
“It definitely is a setback for us because it's a large population and a big market,” he said of the visa processing suspension.
Other companies face a potential pinch too. While flights to India make up a fraction of Canada’s travel market — less than 40 of Air Canada’s 4,000-plus weekly flights are between this country and the subcontinent — the growing number of immigrants and international students still make it a major spot on the map of some businesses, from agricultural exporters to airlines.
“We anticipate increased immigration will continue to strengthen the vibrant visiting-friends-and-relatives market in contributing to trade, furthering corporate travel opportunities,” Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau told analysts on a conference call last month.
India is now the leading source of immigration to Canada, with 118,000 or 27 per cent of the 437,000 new permanent residents in 2022 coming from that country, according to the Immigration Department.
The Shopping Trends team is independent of the journalists at CTV News. We may earn a commission when you use our links to shop. Read about us.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Amid concern over Canadians going hungry, Conservatives criticized for voting against school food bill
As Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre continues to voice concern over the increase in food bank usage, his party is being criticized by some for voting against a private member's bill that would advance a framework for a national school food program.
A Russian girl shot several classmates at school Thursday, killing one person and wounding five others before killing herself, state news agencies and authorities said.
Winter weather is underway in parts of Canada with three storm systems bringing messy conditions from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador.
A box-shaped cloud of opaque dust that lies at the centre of our galaxy has long perplexed scientists, and observations that reveal a new detail about its composition are deepening the mystery — possibly upending what’s known about how stars form.
A draft report from a United Nations agency gives Canada a C grade on flight safety and oversight, down from an A+ and far below most of its peers.
Cindy Woodhouse is the new national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.The Manitoba regional chief was tapped to lead the political advocacy organization after her closest challenger, David Pratt, conceded.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly is condemning sexual violence committed by Hamas during its attack on Israel, after weeks of pressure to speak out.
The Merry and Bright light festival has illuminated the botanical gardens in St. John's, N.L. for seven years, and it just keeps getting bigger.
Public health officials say they recorded in 2022 the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in 10 years in the city of Montreal and its on-island suburbs. Data shared last week shows the number of new reported HIV cases more than doubled between 2021 and 2022, to 310 from 141.
Basketball star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander wins lawsuit over Burlington mansion previously occupied by 'crypto king'
A judge has ruled in favour of NBA star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in his lawsuit against a company that sold him a Burlington mansion previously occupied by self-proclaimed ‘crypto king’ Aiden Pleterski.
Ontario is considering introducing an enhanced road test for drivers over 80 years old, and is looking at how to better deter stunt driving.
Toronto police have released images of three of the four suspects allegedly responsible for a smash-and-grab robbery at a high-end jewelry store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre earlier this week.
A new report by more than 30 researchers is estimating how much food will cost in 2024 and how much money it will take to feed families.
Police say they are investigating a report of "armed persons" entering a home in Saint John, N.B.
Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into the theft of personal information from a file-transfer system used by the provincial government.
Just before 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, OPP and EMS responded to the scene of a crash between a car and a pedestrian on Fairground Road near Cultus.
It was a slow month for home sales in the London and St. Thomas region, with LSTAR calling the month of November 'lackluster' amid a small decrease in the average home price.
A London woman has generated some buzz on social media after a post on Facebook from an Old East Village neighbourhood.
Police have arrested and charged two people after a traffic stop early Thursday morning in West Nipissing.
A provincial police officer with a keen eye conducted a traffic stop after spotting a vehicle featuring a rather unconventional "quick fix" in Penetanguishene.
Information of hundreds of drivers trafficked in auto-theft ring involving ServiceOntario employees: police
Toronto police say the information of hundreds of drivers in the province was trafficked to suspects allegedly running an auto-theft ring involving employees at ServiceOntario.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek won't be attending this year's annual menorah lighting, a ceremony that marks the beginning of Hanukkah.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says Ottawa's proposed cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oilpatch singles out her province for punitive measures and she promises another court fight with the federal government over it.
Taber police are working with Fish and Wildlife officers to relocate a family of moose that has seemingly taken up residence in the southern Alberta town.
A Brantford, Ont. woman accused faking pregnancies and stillbirths to defraud doulas has pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including fraud and mischief.
Sofyan Taya, a former guest scholar at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, was reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike near Gaza City. His friend and former colleague called him a brilliant and gentle soul.
Crews are working to restore power in the area of Fischer Hallman Road and Erb Street West in Waterloo after a truck hit a power line.
The mother of B.C. teenager Amanda Todd, who was bullied into suicide by a Dutch national, says she'll be “so angry” if a court in Amsterdam doesn't give him significant extra jail time on the basis of his Canadian conviction last year.
A B.C. landlord has been ordered to pay $5,400 in strata fines racked up by a former tenant who was accused of breaching the building's bylaws 75 times.
The skeletal remains of a 39-year-old hiker who went missing in the southern Vancouver Island backcountry one year ago have been found.
Police shot and killed a woman in southeast Edmonton on Wednesday.
Five people in Grande Prairie were recently charged with accessing, possessing and transmitting child pornography.
The Alberta Pension Protection Act passed its third reading early Thursday morning.
Windsor police are investigating a serious collision in the west end.
Windsor police are asking for the public’s help identifying a porch pirate near south Walkerville.
Workforce Windsor-Essex has launched a website specifically designed to outline skills required to get into the industry.
'Great opportunity to come home': Marc Mueller speaks to media for first time as a Saskatchewan Roughrider
Marc Mueller has returned to his hometown of Regina to serve as the Saskatchewan Roughriders' next offensive coordinator – telling reporters on Thursday that it feels good to return to his roots.
The troubled production of a new IT system for Saskatchewan hospitals is now projected to cost around three times its original budget at $240 million, according to the provincial auditor.
Regina residents could soon be allowed to raise chickens in their yard if a pilot project is approved by city council.
Ottawa issues $400,000 in fines for violating winter weather parking ban during first storm of the season
Bylaw officers buried Ottawa motorists in parking tickets for violating the winter weather parking ban during the first significant snowstorm of the season.
No one was hurt when several shots were fired at a home on rue Saint-Hyacinthe at approximately 12 a.m. on Wednesday.
Ottawa's real estate market typically slows down during the colder months of the year, and this year is shaping up to be no exception.
On Wednesday, an expert witness walked the court through messages suggesting a love triangle between a former Saskatchewan Mountie, his wife, and the man he’s accused of killing.
The majority of Saskatoon special care homes may be "chemically" managing residents with anti-psychotic drugs, an independent audit found.
As Saskatchewan managed to escape brutal cold temperatures going into December, some in Lloydminster are hoping for a chance to simply sleep indoors.