Why Canada sits on extradition requests - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Why Canada sits on extradition requests

Oct 07, 2023 10:00 PM IST

Mature diplomacy can help end the present imbroglio like how a serious situation in 1986 was resolved between the then superpowers, the US and the USSR.

On September 23, former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said he had handed over a list of “A” category terrorists staying in Canada to Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau when he visited Punjab in February 2018. “But the Canadian government chose to ignore the list completely,” Singh said. He felt this was because Trudeau was running his minority government with the support of Khalistan promoter Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party.

One hopes that the present stand-off between India and Canada will not affect our long-term relationship (HT photo) PREMIUM
One hopes that the present stand-off between India and Canada will not affect our long-term relationship (HT photo)

It is not that Canada has not experienced the ravages of terrorism. It has suffered different types of terrorism from Cuban rebels, Quebec separatists, Armenian-Turkish rival bombers, anarchist-environmental terrorists, jihadis, far-right rebels and anti-abortion activists. Yet the Air India Kanishka bombing of June 23, 1985, with 329 deaths was not initially acknowledged as a “terrorist act”, although most of the dead were Canadian nationals.

It took the Canadian government 20 years to appoint a high-powered commission under then Canadian Supreme Court Chief Justice John C Major in 2006 when several others — Justice BN Kirpal of the Delhi high court in 1986 and former Canadian diplomat Robert (Bob) Keith Ray in 2005 among them — had flagged serious lapses earlier. Justice John C Major said in 2010 that the then PM Brian Mulroney’s office was more interested in “defending the reputation of the government and its agencies” than probing the mistakes of his services during the “largest mass murder in Canadian history”. He made harsh comments on the CSIS (intelligence) and RCMP (police) for not cooperating during the investigation, battling over sources, neglecting witnesses, and indulging in turf wars.

While this was going on, a severe churn was happening with Canadian security agencies due to the Maher Arar case. Maher Arar, a Canadian telecommunications expert of Syrian origin was flagged as a possible al-Qaeda suspect by Project A-O of the RCMP. A-O sent lookout notices for him to the Canadian and United States (US) air security departments. On September 26, 2002, Arar was stopped at New York airport en route from Zurich to Montreal. He was deported to Syria where he was subjected to severe torture. He was released only in October 2003 with the Canadian PM’s intervention with the Syrian president.

The Maher Arar case resulted in an uproar. The Canadian government appointed a commission under Justice Dennis O’Connor to probe into the lapses. The O’Connor report raised the bar of scrutiny of extradition cases to such an extent that human rights, enshrined in the “Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, assumed the pivotal place adjudicated by the judiciary, relegating individual extradition agreements with other countries to a secondary place. This applies to the Indo-Canadian extradition treaty signed on February 6, 1987, too.

A 2022 study by Freedom House (FH) said that almost 22% of Canada’s population is foreign born and the country has welcomed over a million refugees since 1980. One in five people living in Canada today are born elsewhere. On average nearly 1,50,000 people enter Canada annually to become permanent residents. Refugees fleeing violence and conflict from China, Rwanda, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Cambodia, Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, and Syria are resettled in Canada.

In these circumstances, it will be worthwhile for the National Investigation Agency to move the Canadian courts directly for the extradition of the wanted Khalistan terrorists if the government response is disappointing. One hopes that the present stand-off between India and Canada will not affect our long-term relationship especially since Canada is home to nearly 1.7 million persons of Indian origin and at least two lakh students. Mature diplomacy can help end the present imbroglio like how a serious situation in 1986 was resolved between the then superpowers, the US and the erstwhile USSR. Despite the “Evil Empire” policy of President Ronald Reagan, a successful summit at Reykjavík, Iceland was held on October 11-12, 1986 between Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, where arms control measures were satisfactorily discussed.

However, this progress was threatened on October 22, 1986, when Reagan expelled 55 Soviet diplomats in retaliation to Moscow’s expulsion of 5 US diplomats. Yet, even while expelling them, Reagan said: “This problem of espionage is an important one, but it is a separate problem, and our plan is to go ahead with the dialogue”. Sure enough, both countries signed the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty on December 8, 1987, in a summit meeting in Washington.

Vappala Balachandran is a former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. The views expressed are personal

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, March 02, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On