TORONTO: Responding to the concerns of a Sikh MP over internet suspension in Punjab, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country is closely following the developments in the state, and will continue to address the concerns of the community.
Authorities in Punjab have started to ease internet suspension in Punjab imposed as part of a manhunt for Waris Punjab De chief and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh, who continues to evade arrest.
“My colleagues and I have heard from constituents regarding the ongoing mass suspension of internet services in Punjab, India. Canadians have families and friends who are visiting Punjab, who do not have access to the internet,” MP from Malton-Mississauga, Iqwinder Gaheer, rose in the House to ask Joly.
In response, Joly said: “We are aware of the evolving situation in Punjab and we are following it very closely… We look forward to a return to a more stable situation and you can always count on the government of Canada to make sure that we will continue to address the concerns of many members of the community.”
Gaheer raised the issue in Parliament after a cross-section of Canadian Sikh MPs expressed their concerns on internet and SMS shutdown, which reportedly affected businesses, colleges and digital payments for everyone in the state.
“As Canadian members of Parliament, we’re trying to ensure that there is some safety for Canadians who are visiting there,” Conservative deputy leader Tim Uppal told The Globe and Mail.
“I am receiving calls from my residents and am deeply concerned,” Sonia Sidhu, the Liberal MP for Brampton South, which boasts of a large Sikh population, said on Twitter. “I hope the situation is resolved soon (and) Canadians travelling to the region are able to connect with their families and friends in Canada,” Sidhu wrote.
According to 2021 Canadian census, Punjabis number approximately 950,000 and account for roughly 2.6 per cent of the country’s population. The Punjab government had extended the suspension of mobile internet and SMS services in Tarn Taran and Ferozepur districts till Friday noon. It had lifted curbs in Moga, Sangrur, Ajnala sub-division in Amritsar and a few areas in Mohali. Mobile internet services in the rest of Punjab resumed on Tuesday.