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Reports suggest Canadian sentiment turning sour on Indians, amid diplomatic strains

The survey noted that “positive appraisal of India has declined by 11 points in Canada since March 2023; a minority of one-third (33%) who say they view the country favorably are outnumbered by the majority (54%) who do not”

A recent survey from the non-profit polling agency Angus Reid Institute (ARI) suggests that Canadian sentiment regarding India has taken a hit, as positive views related to the country dropped by 11 points to 33% in 2024 from 44% since March 2023. This decline follows accusations by the Canadian government of being involved in the killing of Khalistan terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar and meddling in Canadian elections.

Canadian sentiment
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“Though (Canadian Prime Minister) Trudeau says Canada supports a ‘united India’, the presence of Sikh separatists in Canada has been a source of tension between India and Canada. Trudeau’s accusation that the Indian government was involved in the assassination of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar only exacerbated the strained relationship. Recent rocky relations between Canada and India also appear to be dragging down Canadian assessments of the world’s most populous country,” ARI stated.

The Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan foundation that researches public opinion on economic, social, governance, philanthropy, and policy issues in Canada and globally, was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist Dr Angus Reid and provides public opinion polling among other services.

Some reports suggest that the non-profit is biased in its reporting. The survey noted that “positive appraisal of India has declined by 11 points in Canada since March 2023; a minority of one-third (33%) who say they view the country favorably are outnumbered by the majority (54%) who do not”.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) recently released a special report in which it identified India as the “second-biggest foreign threat” to Canadian democracy.

China, which was deemed to be the greatest threat, also suffered a decline in favorability, with 79% of Canadians having a negative opinion of it. In addition to bilateral issues, the majority of immigrants to Canada are Indian, and this has resulted in a growing anti-immigration attitude in Canada. This attitude affects how Canadians see India, influencing the popular perception of the most populated nation on earth.

About 320,000 Indians arrived in Canada in 2023 with student visas. But beginning in 2024, Canada tightened its requirements for work permits and enhanced surveillance, resulting in a 35% decrease in study permits. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation were the “most significant perpetrators of foreign interference in Canada,” according to the Committee’s 2019 analysis, while other nations, “including India, Pakistan, and Iran engaged in foreign interference activities.”

Notably, India has strongly refuted the claims terming them “baseless”. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said, “We have seen media reports about the Canadian commission inquiring into. We strongly reject all such baseless allegations of Indian interference in Canadian elections.”

“It is not the government of India’s policy to interfere in the democratic processes of other countries. In fact, quite on the reverse, it is Canada which has been interfering in our internal affairs,” he added. Bilateral tensions could not be the only factor aggravating the view, though, as growing anti-immigration sentiment has also been directed towards Indians, who make up the majority of migrants to Canada and are the most prominent group.

“These aspects, I believe, are playing a much bigger role compared to the political tensions between the two countries,” political commentator Darshan Maharaja said, referring to the problems associated with high levels of immigration.

“While it is tempting to attribute this to the worsened bilateral relations between India and Canada, I think this factor plays a comparatively smaller role. For more than seven or eight months, there has been a lot of reporting on the issues of international students/temporary foreign workers and the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). All these areas have been shown to be rife with corruption and malpractice, such as sham colleges, useless courses that are only meant to serve as a vehicle to get a person into Canada and to enable them to gain Permanent Residency in Canada. In each of these aspects, Indians or Indian-origin Canadians are shown to be playing a major role,” he explained.

Violence linked to Indo-Canadians, even those based in India, has not helped, with increasing levels of drive-by shootings, extortion attempts, car thefts, and robberies.

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