Ottawa (November 21, 2022): The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Canadian Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra with respect to the recently expanded Canada-India Air Transport Agreement. The Agreement provides for unlimited flights between Canada and India between selected airports, however, excludes Amritsar and Chandigarh in Punjab, which is home to the majority of the Sikh community and the destination of the majority of travellers from Canada.
The full text of the letter follows below:
November 21, 2022
Hon. Omar Alghabra
Minister of Transport
Dear Minister Alghabra,
RE: Exclusion of Punjab from Expanded Canada-India Air Transport Agreement
We are writing with respect to the recently expanded Canada-India Air Transport Agreement which was announced last week. While expanded transport relationships and the potential of greater flight options are a positive development, Sikhs in Canada were disappointed to see that airports in Punjab were not included in the agreement.
As you know, Canada is home to a large Sikh community which has strong connections to Punjab. Many Sikhs in Canada have advocated for years to create direct flight options between Canada and Amritsar, without success. A majority of travelers between Canada and India are connected to Punjab. As a result of no direct travel options between Canada and Punjab, these travelers are forced to spend substantial extra time and money in order to reach their destinations.
Since the start of the pandemic, Canadian travelers to India continue to face significant hardships such as the continued suspension of the Indian e-visa scheme, which has been restarted for countries such as the USA, Australia, France, Mexico and many others. As a result, Canadians seeking Indian visas are forced to wait between four and six weeks for a visa or wait in line outside of Indian Visa Application centres for hours. Indian ten-year visas which were restored for citizens in other countries, continue to be suspended in Canada.
So, while the expanded Canada-India Air Transport Agreement may be a positive development for travelers to Kolkata and Chennai, it has left many Sikhs in Canada disappointed and wondering why Punjab has once again been excluded. We would request that you work with your Indian counterparts to ease the hardships faced by Canadian travelers to India but also to heed the long-standing demand of creating direct travel links between Canada and Punjab.
We look forward to your timely reply to this matter.
Tejinder Singh Sidhu
World Sikh Organization of Canada