Toronto is welcoming India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with crowds of admirers — and protesters.
Modi and Prime Minister Stephen Harper landed in Toronto Wednesday afternoon, after Modi’s ceremonial welcome in Ottawa earlier today.
* India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Canada on a three-day visit to Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
* This evening, he is set to unleash Modi-mania in Toronto on Wednesday evening, says reporter Raveena Aulakh, when he takes the stage at the Ricoh Coliseum. A crowd of about 8,000 supporters is expected.
* Toronto’s welcome is billed to be on the lines of his Madison Square address in New York last year, where he was cheered like a rock star by some 18,000 spectators.
* Modi, a divisive figure in India, is nevertheless considered a great orator.
* PM Harper is also expected to speak tonight.
Their meeting has already proven historically significant. It is the first bilateral meeting in Canada of an Indian prime minister since 1973, when former PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau met with India’s former PM, Indira Ghandi.
The enigmatic leader of the second-most populous country in the world is likely to face hordes of admirers at Ricoh Coliseum on his stop Wednesday in Toronto.
Edgar Faleiro, an Indian Catholic, said that his feelings for Modi are mixed because he has seen the country become increasingly divided along religious lines under his leadership.
“He’s done well on the economic front,” Faleiro said.
“If he can stand and protect every community, that would be great.”
Modi is beloved by many, having earned a reputation for being a self-made man who began his career not in the lap of luxury, but as a tea seller.
“Every common man can relate to him,” said Pranit Patil, a supporter on the way to the Ricoh Coliseum where Modi will address an estimated crowd of 8,000 this evening.
“He’s a very honest fellow,” added Chandrakant Patil, who is also from Modi’s home province of Gujarat.
Modi’s visit is also expected to draw protestors, including Joyce Almeida who make the trek to Ricoh Coliseum.
“It’s not a protest so much as highlighting a concern. We Christians in India are a minority and we’re not being protected,” said Almeida, who moved here from Maharashtra, India five years ago.
Modi is a member of a Hindu nationalist party, accused in the past of aiding the killing of 1,000 Indian Muslims in communal riots in 2002 while he was chief minister of Gujarat. Modi has always denied involvement in the violence, and India’s Supreme Court has said there was no case to bring against him, but he was banned entry to Canada and the U.S. for 12 years as a suspected human rights abuser.
An organization called Sikhs for Justice has filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Canada requesting criminal proceedings against Modi.
With files from Star staff