We have great respect for India's armed forces: Canada

Canada's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Catherine Loubier said in an e-mail statement that "vibrant people-to-people" connections are one of the "greatest strengths" of India-Canada relations which continue to be strengthened.

"I would like to stress that Canada has the highest regard for India's democratic institutions and processes. Canada has great respect for India's armed forces and related institutions," she said in the statement.

The statement came in the wake of revelation of remarks of a First Secretary of the Canadian High Commission here that BSF was a "notoriously violent" force which indulged in "systematic attack" and "systematic torture" of suspected criminals.

The diplomat had made the comments while rejecting the visa application of a retired BSF constable.

The External Affairs Ministry has already taken up the issue with the Canadian government.

"We are reviewing the situation," the Canadian spokesperson said but did not elaborate citing "privacy reasons".

Loubier said India is a country with growing influence on the global stage and "our past has been marked by friendship and by strong ties that bind us closer than ever. We are also democratic nations that are ethnically, spiritually and linguistically diverse."

She noted that the Indo-Canadian community is approximately one million strong and makes significant contributions to the strength of Canada's economy as well as to people-to-people links between our two countries.

The Canada-India ties continue to strengthen following the very successful visit to India by a strong delegation led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last November, she said.

With regard to visas, Loubier said decisions are made by public servants following an independent process governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Meanwhile, the retired BSF Havildar who was denied visa by the Canadian High Commission, on Saturday said he had approached the Prime Minister's Office in March seeking his intervention into the matter.

"I have not been called to New Delhi by any official agency so far. As and when I am called I am ready to go to the national capital," Fateh Singh Pandher, who for most part of his service was posted in Jammu and Kashmir, said.

Pandher, who hails from village Siarh in Ludhiana district, applied for permanent immigration in 2005 as his only daughter is a Canadian citizen and is settled there along with her family. After submitting his application, he had once been to Canada on a tourist visa.

In its rejection letter to the former BSF trooper, the Canadian High Commission alleged the BSF was "responsible for committing crime against humanity" and he was a part of it.

Pandher, 60, who retired from BSF a decade ago, had applied for immigration in April 2005. He was called in for an interview on April 21, 2008 at the High Commission.

He said his case was rejected through a letter dated December 8, 2009 stating that he could not be allowed immigration under section 35(1)(a) of Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for committing an act outside Canada that constitutes an offence referred to as "crimes against humanity and war crimes".


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