‘Tension between consulate, police over Canada Indian restaurant blast probe’

Mississauga: There are signs of tension between the Indian Consulate General in Toronto and the regional police over a hotline set up by the diplomatic mission after the explosion at a restaurant in this heavily Southasian city, according to The Toronto Star.

“As the investigation continued, Peel police issued a rebuke on Sunday, reminding anyone with information about Thursday’s bomb attack on the Bombay Bhel restaurant in the Toronto suburb here, that the police — and not the Indian Consulate of Toronto — are the ones to call,” the newspaper said.

Peel is the region covering Mississauga and other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area.

The newspaper reported that police said in a written statement sent to it: “Although we appreciate the assistance of any outside agencies and community partners, we would prefer than any information in relation to this incident be provided directly to investigators through a dedicated tip line at 1-800-966-0616.”

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced on Twitter the setting up of the “emergency number” 1-647-668-4108 by the consulate, saying: “Our missions will work round the clock.”

“The first action was to open a helpline for Indian citizens and also the Indian-Canadian community, because it’s a vast Indo-Canadian community in Toronto,” India’s Consul General Dinesh Bhatia was quoted as saying by the Global News.

“People are calling to find out if their relatives are involved because in the middle of the night they couldn’t reach any of the numbers,” he told the national multi-media website.

There was no indication from Swaraj or Bhatia that they were conducting a parallel investigation or soliciting information of an investigative nature but that they were only helping people with information about family and relatives.

Canadian officials have not released the names of the three people who were seriously injured in the blast.

The police reaction may have been sparked by an Ontario Gurudwara Committee statement criticising the consulate.

The Star said the Committee accused “the Indian Consulate of Toronto for overstepping its diplomatic reach by establishing a hotline to gather information on the bombing”.

When told about the Committee’s warning about the hotline, “a Peel police source, speaking on background, reacted sharply,” the Star said.

It reported that the source said, “Anyone contacting the Consulate with information, we would expect to hear about that immediately. We are handling this. Period.”

Later, the police sent the note to the newspaper.

The Committee also condemned what it said was “misinformation” spread by the Indian media.