Ottawa did not offer intel on India allegations to province: Sask. trade minister

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison.

Alec Salloum

Regina Leader-Post

If recent allegations that the Indian state was complicit in the killing of a Canadian national are what paused trade talks, the federal government did not disclose that information to the provinces, Saskatchewan’s trade minister says.

Last week Premier Scott Moe and Minister of Trade and Export Development Jeremy Harrison voiced their disdain at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the Group of 20 (G20) economic summit in India earlier this month.

“It is very difficult to come to any other conclusion that your government has once again put its own domestic political interests ahead of the national economic interest — particularly as it relates to exports and trade of western Canadian-produced commodities,” Harrison wrote in a Sept. 8 letter to the federal government.

The province was never made aware of security concerns held by the federal government, Harrison said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. He added that if these concerns were what ended the India-Canada Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) talks, that was not disclosed by the government.

“The federal government should have made that information available to provinces and territories and had numerous opportunities to do so,” Harrison said.

“These are very serious allegations and if proven need to be taken seriously. I am hopeful that the federal government will have had rock solid facts and evidence to back allegations of such a serious and far-reaching nature.”

Trudeau said in the House of Commons that Canadian security agencies believe agents affiliated with the Indian state had a role in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said on Monday as the news broke.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

Diplomats have already been expelled from both countries as India denied any involvement in the killing.

As details emerge about the killing, the country “must stand together,” Saskatchewan NDP Opposition Leader Carla Beck said in an emailed statement.

“This would represent an egregious violation of Canadian sovereignty and we thoroughly support any and all efforts to bring those responsible to justice. We stand in solidarity with Sikh and Punjabi communities here in Saskatchewan and across Canada,” Beck wrote.

Saskatchewan’s total 2022 exports to India were valued at $1.4 billion, much of which came from lentils. Half of the lentils imported by India come from Saskatchewan, according to government.

“With a population of more than 1.4 billion people, the opportunity for growth is considerable,” the province said in a media release on Feb. 14.

Less than an hour after the news broke at the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday, Saskatchewan Party MLAs made posts on X (formerly Twitter) highlighting the trade relationship between India and Saskatchewan.

The government did not comment on the posts made by its MLAs.

Saskatchewan has nine international trade offices, one of which is in India. The government did not make any statement on what will be done with that office or the staff there in light of the diplomatic row.