Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing the Indian government of involvement in the shooting death of a Canadian Sikh leader, a claim that will have seismic effects on an already rocky bilateral relationship.
Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar was brazenly shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.
Nijjar, a supporter of a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state, had been branded by the Indian government as a “terrorist” and accused of leading a separatist militant group, something his supporters have denied.
Now, Trudeau said, Canada’s national security apparatus has reason to believe that “agents of the Indian government” carried out the murder of this Canadian citizen, who also served as president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara of Surrey.
“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the murder of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said Monday in a speech to the House of Commons.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies are conducted.
“As expected, we have been working closely and coordinating with our allies on this very serious matter.”
A senior government source told Breaking: that Trudeau has briefed the leaders of some of Canada’s closest allies about the case, including U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and President American, Joe Biden.
Trudeau also urged the Indian government to participate in the ongoing investigation and “cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
India’s foreign ministry issued a statement late Monday rejecting Trudeau’s allegations, calling them “absurd.”
“These baseless allegations seek to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided refuge in Canada and continue to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India,” the statement said.
“The Canadian government’s inaction on this matter has been a long-standing and ongoing concern.”
Trudeau said some Indo-Canadians are feeling “angry” and “maybe scared right now.”
“Let’s not let this change us,” he said.
Canada expels top Indian diplomat
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said she had ordered the expulsion of “a senior Indian diplomat.”
Joly’s office said the diplomat is Pavan Kumar Rai, head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada.
“My expectations are clear. I hope India will fully collaborate with us and get to the bottom of this,” Joly said.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the RCMP is leading the murder investigation.
“We will hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice,” he said.
BC’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is responsible for the Nijjar file.
“It’s progressing,” RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme told Breaking: when asked about the investigation.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada, a group representing Sikh interests, said Nijjar spoke of “threats to his life” before his alleged murder.
He also claimed that he was being targeted by Indian intelligence agencies, the WSO said in a press release.
Sikh group says ‘India actively attacks Sikhs in Canada’
The WSO said that “a number of other Canadian Sikhs are also understood to be under threat” and are on India’s “target lists.”
“The importance of today’s announcement for Sikhs cannot be underestimated,” the WSO said.
“Today, Canada’s Prime Minister has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades: India actively attacks Sikhs in Canada.”
Trudeau said he raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week at the G20 summit in New Delhi.
Trudeau and Modi have long had a frosty relationship.
After the bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of that summit, the Indian government issued a tersely worded statement that said Modi raised with Trudeau “strong concerns about the continuation of anti-Indian activists from extremist elements in Canada.”
The statement said there are elements in Canada “promoting secessionism” and “inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic facilities and threatening the Indian community in Canada.”
The Indian government called on the two countries to cooperate to address “such threats.”
The Canadian statement on the same meeting made no mention of “secessionism.” Now it is clear why.
Last Tuesday, Trudeau and the Canadian delegation left India after a long stay caused by a technical problem on the prime minister’s plane.
One member of the delegation was absent.
Instead, national security adviser Jody Thomas quietly left India for London, United Kingdom, a government source told Breaking:.
He informed the UK government that Canada’s relations with India were about to worsen now that Canada had credible evidence linking the Indian government to Nijjar’s death, the source said.
Trudeau also personally briefed opposition leaders on Monday before rising to inform Canadians of this development.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said it is “outrageous” that India could be behind Nijjar’s murder.
“Our citizens must be safe from extrajudicial killings. Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil. We call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder. The truth must come to light,” he said Poilievre.
“Let us come together and unite to condemn this murder, supporting the family and friends of this victim. Let us put aside our differences to defend the rule of law. One law for all our people.”
In his own speech, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh sharply criticized the Indian government of Modi, a Hindu.
Singh said the Modi-led government has been “a government of division, violence and persecution” with a known pattern of “attacking those who criticize” its actions.
Singh said he would use “all tools” at his disposal to “bring those responsible to justice.”
“We will ensure that no loose ends are left and all possible links are examined,” Singh said.
He said the public inquiry into foreign interference, which was prompted by accusations of Chinese meddling, should also examine India and its actions in Canada.
BC Premier David Eby said he was “deeply disturbed and angry” by the news.
“In light of these revelations, we will do everything we can to improve the protection of the people of British Columbia against violence or threats from state actors,” he said in a news release.
“Our government will fully and enthusiastically support any federal efforts to ensure those responsible are held personally accountable.”