NEWS

Narendra Modi, Indian PM, to deliver major speech in Toronto

04/15/2015 05:55 EDT | Updated 06/24/2015 07:59 EDT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to deliver a speech to some 10,000 people in Toronto this evening.

Modi, India's new and controversial leader who swept to power last May, is making his first official visit to Canada.

- ANALYSIS | Canada's 'special relationship' with Narendra Modi

Modi's set to get the rock-star treatment in Canada, where he enjoys wide popularity among the country's 1.2 million strong Indo-Canadian population. Politicians and business leaders, meanwhile, are hoping his visit will create improved trade and other ties between India and Canada.

For others, Modi's visit is a chance to protest.

A group called Sikhs for Justice is calling for Modi to be indicted for torture for his role in the  2002 inter-communal riots in the Indian state of Gujarat, where he was chief minister at the time. Some 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the violence.

Modi has been cleared of wrongdoing by an investigation overseen by India's Supreme Court and confirmed by a Gujarat state court in 2012.

Still, Jatinder Singh Grewal, says there is still religious persecution in Modi's India.

"You see Muslims being forced to convert to Hinduism, you see Sikhs being denied their religious identity … this isn't acceptable to Canadians," he said.

It's unclear if Modi will touch on these issues when he speaks at the Ricoh Colliseum at 5:30 p.m., but in the past he has talked about making India a place where all religions can flourish

At a similar major speech at New York's Madison Square Garden, Modi, who is known as a Hindu nationalist, told the crowd "I have a dream," echoing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Modi's trip to Canada marks the first by an Indian PM since 1973. 

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