Canada evacuates 41 diplomats and their families from India: Joly

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Canada has evacuated 41 diplomats and their 42 family members and their families from India, after Delhi made good on its threat to strip them of their diplomatic immunity, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Thursday.

"I can confirm that India has formally conveyed its plan to unilaterally remove diplomatic immunities for all but 21 Canadian diplomats and dependents in Delhi by tomorrow, Oct. 20," Joly said.

Joly said that in their efforts for diplomatic parity, India would only allow 21 diplomats and their families to maintain their diplomatic status, putting the others at risk for having their protections stripped arbitrarily, leaving them vulnerable to reprisal or arrest.

"The safety of Canadians and of our diplomats is always my top concern. Given the implications of India's actions on the safety of our diplomats, we have facilitated their safe departure from India," Joly said. "This means that our diplomats and their families have now left."

Chiding India for acting "contrary to international law," and in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Joly accused India of escalating the bilateral tensions.

The minister announced the development "on the situation with India" alongside Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marc Miller, who announced this move will impact the level of service delivery Canada will be able to provide in that country. 

This update comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked Thursday for a status update on the Indian government giving Ottawa an Oct. 10 deadline to significantly reduce its diplomatic footprint.

As CTV News reported at the time, Canada was asked to see dozens of diplomats depart, to put the contingent of officials in India on par with the number of Indian diplomats in Canada. Sources said then, that Canada had already evacuated a majority of the Canadian diplomats working in India outside of Dehli to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Trudeau did not directly answer the question, saying instead that Joly would have more to say later.

"We have been continually engaged in diplomacy and in dialogue with the Indian government," Trudeau said. "This is a serious matter that we are taking extremely seriously."

Relations remain strained between the two countries, after Trudeau accused the Indian government of being involved in a murder on Canadian soil, shocking many in September when he revealed intelligence agencies were investigating "credible allegations" that agents of the Indian government were involved in the June death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in B.C.

Global Affairs Canada had previously stated that "with some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms," it was "assessing its staff complement in India."

Following the press conference, officials from Global Affairs Canada, Immigration and Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Public Safety will be holding a technical briefing with reporters.