Standing together

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Standing together

Wednesday, 15 November 2023 | Pioneer

Standing together

India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh ask Canada to tackle hate speech, hate crimes

A group of South Asian countries ticked off Canada at a recent UN meeting, saying that it must rein in rogue elements operating from its soil. Canada was also told that freedom of speech cannot be absolute, so reasonable restrictions must be placed if it hurts the sentiments of others and is hateful. It was unprecedented when two of India’s neighbors gave all-out support to India in dealing with recent Canadian diatribes wherein Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused India of violating the Vienna convention and expelling Canadian diplomats after the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India had urged Canada to strengthen its steps against hate speech, discrimination and attacks on religious places. The recommendations were made during the UN Human Rights Council Review meeting, where representatives from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka shared their concerns. And surprisingly they all shared the same sentiment.

Indian diplomat Mohammed Hussain highlighted Canada's legislative achievements, such as the National Housing Strategy Act and the Accessible Canada Act. However, he also underscored the need for Canada to further fortify its domestic framework to prevent the misuse of freedom of expression, especially in instances of inciting violence and activities promoting extremism. He asked his Canadian counterpart to take decisive measures to prevent attacks on places of worship belonging to religious and racial minorities. Additionally, he urged Canada to enhance legislative measures to address hate crimes and hate speech effectively.  It is pertinent to note here that after the Nijjar killing, Indian diaspora in Canada has been facing slur and abuse. The Indian embassy staff even received calls asking them to leave the country or face consequences. But the support rendered by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the meeting was most heartening. Bangladeshi diplomat Abdullah Al Forhad emphasised the necessity for Canada to intensify its efforts against racism, hate speech, hate crimes and discrimination faced by migrants and Muslim minorities. Sri Lankan diplomat Thilini Jayasekara urged Canada to accede to the Convention on the Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and take steps to combat racial discrimination against immigrants. Jayasekara also emphasised the need for Canada to oppose misinformation against minorities and follow-up on global human rights recommendations. Earlier, the diplomatic tension between India and Canada following Nijjar's killing led to the suspension of visa services in Canada, although they have been partially restored. However, a positive sign is the support that came from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and it is indeed in the interest of South Asia that all countries of the region speak in one voice as the issues are more or less similar and identifiable.

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