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'It's all politics': B.C. residents feel impact of India visa shutdown

Surrey, B.C. -

As diplomatic tensions between India and Canada continue to mount, some B.C. residents are starting to feel the effects.

On Thursday morning, a line formed outside the BLS International Services Canada building in Surrey, as people waited to process their paperwork for passports and visas.

A sign on the front door read: "due to operational reasons, with effect from Sept. 21, 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice."

India suspended all visa services for Canadians Thursday, continuing its escalating response to Canada's investigation into the Indian government's alleged involvement in the killing of B.C. Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were credible allegations linking Indian agents to the Nijjar slaying.

India has called the accusations "absurd and motivated," and the two countries have each expelled a diplomat in response to the spat.

Trudeau faced more questions Thursday as he wrapped up his visit to the United Nations.

"We are a country of the rule of law," the prime minister told reporters.

"We are going to continue to do the work necessary to keep Canadians safe and to uphold our values and the international rules-based order. That’s our focus right now."

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters his country has issues with "inaction by Canadian authorities" on alleged incitement of violence by Canada-based activists who support the creation of an independent Sikh homeland called Khalistan.

"The creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulate, that’s what’s making us stop, temporarily, this issuance of visas or providing visa service," Bagchi said.

In Surrey, a woman named Solani said she stood in line for an hour Thursday, watching as people showed up and then left without visas.

She told CTV News she came to Canada in 2015 on a student visa. On Thursday, she received her Canadian citizenship and said she felt for those trying to visit India.

“It’s hard if someone has to go to an emergency, to India. It’s hectic for them for sure," she said. "But at the same time, it’s all politics.”

With files from The Associated Press Top Stories

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