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Simcoe County Indian community leaders urge unity as Canada-India tensions rise

Community leaders in Simcoe County's Indian community are calling for unity here at home and beyond as tensions between Canada and India continue to rise.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government was investigating "credible allegations" that Indian government agents were linked to the slaying of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh independence advocate in British Columbia, on June 18.

India has denied any role in the killing, calling the allegations absurd.

"On a personal level, it's happening between two countries that I love dearly," said Raj Sandhu, Deputy Mayor of Bradford West Gwillimbury. "When violence gets involved and innocent people start getting killed, that is not ok."

Sandhu said apart from the emotions, the Indian community in Bradford is united.

"We have a very good fabric here in town," Sandhu said. "Close family, type of gatherings and a close-knit community, we talk, but our relationship locally is still very strong. We are concerned, but it's not affecting us as two communities in town."

However, Indian Canadians wanting to visit the country are still caught in the middle in more ways than one.

Visa processing has been suspended for travel to and from India, impacting several people in Simcoe County.

"I know a couple of people in the community who are actually having vacations planned to India," said Anupam Srivastava, a leader within Bradford's Indian Community group. "It seems to be in limbo at the moment."

Srivastava helps to put together festivals and events in Bradford for the greater community and echos Dep. Mayor Sandhu's message of unity and togetherness.

"Practice the philosophy of unity and diversity," he urged. "Love for one, love for all."

In Barrie, the local Indian Association said visa issues have also been noticed, but overall, the community is holding together in unison.

"We want the same thing, peace, prosperity, unity," said Shakir Baramare, the association's president. "We have to choose the path of understanding, empathy, collaboration."

At Georgian College, International students make up a large contingent of its student base, with a more significant portion of those from India.

"Our focus, as always, is supporting our students, no matter where they are from in the world and making sure they feel safe while they work and study at Georgian," said Georgian College in a statement.

"We support all our students and employees and offer year-round mental health and well-being supports that are free and confidential. We also have experiences, programming and support that encourage cross-cultural learning to strengthen understanding and a sense of belonging."

Sandhu, Srivastava and Baramare added that anyone with questions or concerns can always contact them to seek help. Top Stories

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