By: Surjit Flora
A battle of wills is brewing amidst local politicians over an international issue affecting thousands of farmers and the right to peaceful protest.
Brampton MPs were among a group of advocates that debated a motion Monday in Parliament regarding thousands of farmers in India, who have flocked to New Delhi to protest a series of laws that they believe will allow companies to exploit agricultural workers.
Local MPs of Punjabi descent, including Tim Uppal, Mandeep Sidhu, Jasraj Singh Hallan, Sonia Sidhu (Brampton-South) and Ruby Sahota (Brampton-North) raised the issue and condemned the treatment of farmers, who have been sprayed with tear gas and water cannons while pledging to remain in the area for several weeks to make their views known.
The three bills passed in India in September included the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Act, the Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and the passage of the Essential Commodities Act, which will privatize farmers’ markets in India. Indian farmers will not get the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce, whereas earlier farmers were given this support price for their crops.
Recently, thousands of farmers from all over India were not only subjected to tear gas and water, but physical force was also used to prevent them from entering Delhi. The violence was also shared on social media.
“Farmers produce food for the country,” said Sahota, noting that democratic rights were being violated using force against the peaceful protesting farmers and that the Canadian government needed to act. “No farmer, no food.”
Brampton-East MP Maninder Sidhu also said that Canada believes the right to democratic and peaceful demonstrations must be respected, and that he will be taking up the issue of the treatment of farmers with India at the diplomatic level.
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Industry Canada, said, Relatives of many citizens of my Lok Sabha constituency are involved in the farmers’ protests in India and are worried about their families’ safety. Their right to peaceful protest must be respected.
Harjeet Singh Sajjan, Minister of Defense of Canada, making his voice clear and standing with Indian farmers and said, The protesting farmers in India should be respected, and their voice should be heard as a peaceful protest is their democratic right, and their rights should not be violated.
In the debate, Trudeau said peaceful protest is a fundamental right of citizens in any democracy, and that the Indian government needs to show kindness to the affected farmers.
Trudeau’s comments caused a harsh rebuke from Indian politicians, who criticized him for his involvement in the country’s escalating farmer protests.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the new law gives farmers more autonomy to set their own prices and the ability to sell products directly to companies. “The new laws don’t stop the old system,” said Modi earlier this week when asked about the issue.
Also, Indian politicians criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his involvement in the country’s interfering farmer protests.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and British Columbia’s Prime Minister John Horgan have previously issued statements of support for Indian farmers, although Trudeau is considered the first world leader to make a public statement.
Brampton Regional Councilor Gurpreet Singh Dhillon also indicated this week that he has written a letter to National Farmers Union (Canada) President Kate Ward urging the union to show solidarity with Indian farmers.
“Farmers are the backbone of our society, and we must all play our part in supporting them,” Dhillon said, referring to the protests against the three bills recently passed by the Central Government.
Dhillon said he introduced a resolution supporting Indian farmers in October, which was passed unanimously by Brampton Council. He added that for the past 50 years, the NFU had been a staunch supporter of social and economic justice in Canada and at the international level. Dhillon said that he was hopeful that with such peaceful agitation and constructive pursuit, a sustained effort from international groups would reverse the laws pertaining to farmers. would reverse these black laws pertaining to farmers.