'We want people to know what's going on': Convoy in Victoria rallies for Indian farmers
VANCOUVER -- A convoy took to the streets of Victoria, B.C. Tuesday to highlight what participants call the mistreatment of farmers peacefully protesting new agriculture rules in India.
Gurinderpal Singh Banwait of Sikh Youth Victoria is one of the organizers. He has family in Punjab and is worried by the police response he’s seen. Banwait believes tear gas and water cannons aren’t needed to deal with a peaceful protest that also has a large number of older people participating.
“The major concern we have is safety of the farmers,” he told CTV News.
Dozens of vehicles, many carrying signs, drove to the legislature in the B.C. capital, as thousands of protesters continued demonstrating in the Indian capital of New Delhi.
This weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the situation “concerning."
“We’ve reached out through multiple means to Indian authorities to voice our concerns,” he added in a video posted to his Facebook page.
John Horgan also tweeted Monday night that “we stand in solidarity with #punjabfarmers calling for meaningful dialogue and peace.”
Indian officials fired back that Canadian politicians were “ill-informed.” The Indian government also says farmers are the victim of misinformation.
It’s estimated hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the street. They say a recently passed law will undercut the prices they get for produce – prices they argue are already too low to pay off loans.
The impact of climate change on crops has already been blamed for many farmer suicides in Punjab.
Satwinder Kaur Bains, the director of the South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley says she’s not surprised at the level of interest British Columbians are showing. The 2016 Census showed a population of nearly 2 million South Asians living in Canada.
“Because of that lineage and the old history of being farmers, I think they're very attached to what's going on in India," she said.
Previously, the Indian government set minimum prices and would purchase grains and rice from farmers and then ration them to those who couldn’t afford the staples, Bains explained. She said the changes will mean that minimum price is gone.
“If (corporations) got in there, bought all the rice – they may not pay the right price – but what happens to the people who can't afford the food?” she told CTV News by Zoom
For those like Banwait rallying on the other side of the world, the hope is to shine some light on what’s happening.
“I have family members and their situation was already horrible before this.”