Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who retired as CRPF inspector general of police in 2010, was denied entry at Vancouver airport as he had served with the Force, which had “committed widespread and systemic human rights abuses’
Relations between India and Canada, marred by recent friction, could take another hit as a retired senior CRPF officer was denied entry at Vancouver airport last week, partly because immigration authorities deemed him to have served a government that engages in “terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide”.
Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who retired with the rank of inspector general of police from the Central Reserve Police Force in 2010, was declared inadmissible under a subsection of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
A document given to Dhillon at the airport stated he was a “prescribed senior official in the service of a government that, in the opinion of the Minister, engages or has engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity”.
This startling condemnation of India was removed in a second report issued by immigration authorities at Vancouver airport. However, they still held he could not be granted entry as he had served with the CRPF, which had “committed widespread and systemic human rights abuses, for example torture, arbitrary detention, murder and sexual assault”.
In a telephone conversation from Ludhiana, where Dhillon returned after being denied entry, the former officer said he had been travelling to Canada for more than 30 years and had visited several times as a serving officer of the CRPF. He said he had a Canadian visa issued in India that was valid till 2024.
Given the grave implications this action could have for bilateral relations, the Hindustan Times sought comment from Global Affairs Canada, which only responded: “Please contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.”
A reply from the immigration department is yet to be received, nor has one been forthcoming from the Canadian Border Services Agency.
A senior Indian official said New Delhi will raise this matter with the Justin Trudeau government in Ottawa.
As he emplaned in Frankfurt for Vancouver after spending some time in Europe with his wife and daughter, the 67-year-old Dhillon never expected such a reception in Canada, a country he had visited frequently, including for joint programmes with his counterparts.
“It is very upsetting. I have seen many crises, but this is very difficult to bear,” Dhillon said.
The ordeal began after he and his wife landed and were pulled aside during the initial immigration check. Dhillon said the officers who interrogated him behaved in an “unreasonable and indecent manner”, accusing him of having either participated or having knowledge of human rights violations by the CRPF.
Dhillon, a distinguished officer who retired as director of the Central Reserve Police Academy in Kadarpur, Gurgaon, and also served as director of the Internal Security Academy in Mount Abu, said: “There has not been a single incident of misconduct during my career.”
He arrived in Canada for a visit that was to start with spending a couple of days with friends in Vancouver, before going to his daughter’s home in Seattle in the United States and then travelling back to Toronto for the main objective of the trip – to attend his niece’s wedding in the suburb of Brampton.
But his questioning in Vancouver on May 18 lasted nearly seven hours and only ceased on the intervention of one of his friends, who had been waiting outside the airport to pick up the Dhillons.
That friend, Shinder Purewal, a former Liberal Party politician and professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia, was aghast at the treatment meted out to Dhillon.
He said, “This is really uncalled for, accusing a person without a shred of evidence. This is something serious for the government of Canada to think about. Has the government decided India is a sponsor of terrorism? That India commits genocide?”
Purewal managed to get the Dhillons a 12-hour respite from the immigration interrogation, during which they were allowed to go to his residence. But that process commenced again the next morning, ending with Dhillon’s visa being cancelled and his being deported back to India. His wife decided to return to India with him.
Dhillon said he did not want to relive his nightmare of travelling to Canada: “This is injustice, a very great humiliation. I’m very perturbed by this.”
While Indian armed forces officers and Punjab Police personnel have been denied visas by Canada in the past on the grounds of rights violations, this episode has taken that attitude to another level, as it brands India a serial abuser of human rights.