India-Canada row: 2022 video from Delhi passed off as Canadian envoy at the Golden Temple

By: Ishita Goel
September 25 2023

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India-Canada row: 2022 video from Delhi passed off as Canadian envoy at the Golden Temple

A Facebook post claiming that the Canadian diplomat visiting Golden Temple before leaving India. (Source: Facebook/Screenshot)


The Verdict False

The clip shows Cameron MacKay, High Commissioner for Canada in India, visiting a gurdwara in Delhi, and not the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Claim ID bf366fde


India-Canada ties remain strained days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a speech on September 18 in the Parliament, said authorities were investigating "credible allegations" regarding India's involvement in the death of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in the British Columbia province on June 18.

India's Ministry of External Affairs on September 19 announced that the High Commissioner of Canada to India was summoned and informed that the Government of India had decided to ask a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within the next five days. The move came as a reaction to the Canadian government's expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat in Ottawa.

What is the claim?

Against this backdrop, a narrative that the Canadian ambassador visited Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib, before leaving India is gaining significant traction online. Social media users spreading this narrative have shared a video of Cameron MacKay, Canadian high commissioner to India, speaking to the press in front of a place of worship. 

In the video, MacKay is asked, "How is your government dealing with outfits called Khalistan which known as 'anti-Inda'? (sic)" to which the diplomat responds, "In Canada we love people of all faiths. All faiths are welcome in Canada." The face of the interviewer who asked the question about 'Khalistan'—the independent Sikh state that separatists want to create in Punjab and its adjoining areas in India—is not visible in the video. 

One user shared the video on Facebook with a caption in Punjabi which read: "The Canadian diplomat, before leaving for Canada, paid obeisance at Sri Darbar Sahib, saying Canada welcomes people of all religions. (translated from Punjabi)" Another user said, "Canadian Ambassador bowed down to Sri Darbar Sahib before returning to Canada." These posts can be viewed here and here.



Screenshot of viral posts making the false claim. (Source: Facebook/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)

What really happened?

While there has been no official announcement of the name of the Canadian diplomat who was expelled from India, Livemint reported, quoting sources, that it was Olivier Sylvestere, the Canadian intelligence agency station chief in India under official cover, who was asked to leave the country. MacKay was merely summoned to be informed of the Indian government's decision to expel the diplomat.

Further, the video features a microphone belonging to the Indian news agency ANI. Taking a cue from this and the video conversation, we traced the video to ANI's X account. On October 27, 2022, ANI had posted the same video featuring MacKay, who was appointed as Canadian high commissioner to India on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on December 20, 2021. While the viral video only focuses on MacKay’s face, the ANI video showed him surrounded by a few other people. The ANI post noted that MacKay had said, "In Canada we love people of all faiths. All faiths are welcome in Canada," when asked how the Canadian government was dealing with Khalistani outfits and what action was being taken against these outfits.


Screenshot of ANI’s post from October 2022. (Source: X/Screenshot)

The same day, ANI also posted another clip from evidently the same conversation in which MacKay says, "Canada supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India," in response to a question about Khalistanis in Canada.

MacKay had also taken to X, then known as Twitter, to share pictures of him in the same outfit as in the viral video and flanked by the same people. The accompanying caption read, "Next on my visits to Delhi's iconic religious places - the majestic #BanglaSahib, where I learned abt its history & toured the complex." Located in New Delhi, Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is a prominent place of worship for the Sikh community. 

Photos of Mackay's visit to Bangla Sahib are also available on stock image websites Getty Images and Alamy. The photos bear many similarities to the viral video.

A comparison of photos available on Getty Images, Alamy to the ANI video. The same people are visible in all three visuals. (Source: Getty Images (L)/Alamy(R)/ ANI/ Screenshots)

On October 27, 2022, news outlet India Today also reported that MacKay had visited Bangla Sahib. The report also carried an image of MacKay at the gurdwara that matched frames from the viral video.  

The above evidence establishes the viral video shows a visit by MacKay to Delhi's Bangla Sahib in October 2022 and not to the Golden Temple, which is located in Amritsar, Punjab, recently, as is being claimed on social media.

What happened in October 2022? 

As part of the movement for the separatist demand for 'Khalistan,' the group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) had given a call to organize the 'Khalistan referendum' in Ontario on November 6, 2022. The Indian government had asked the Canadian government to intervene and stop the referendum. A similar referendum had already been held in Ontario in September 2022. MacKay was subsequently grilled by the Indian press about Canada's position, as is seen in the video, on reportedly shielding elements that supported the movement for 'Khalistan.'

The verdict

An old video of MacKay visiting a gurdwara in Delhi in October 2022 is being shared as a recent video of him visiting the Golden Temple amid the diplomatic standoff between India and Canada. We have marked this post as false.



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