The Canadian government has amassed human and signals intelligence in a months-long investigation into the death of a Sikh activist that has inflamed relations with India, sources told Breaking:.
That intelligence includes communications involving Indian officials themselves, including Indian diplomats present in Canada, Canadian government sources say.
The intelligence did not come solely from Canada. Some of it was provided by an anonymous ally of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
In a diplomatic crisis that unfolded progressively behind the scenes, Canadian officials traveled to India on several occasions seeking cooperation in the investigation into the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The Sikh leader was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18 and had reportedly been warned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that he was at risk.
Canada’s national security and intelligence adviser Jody Thomas was in India for four days in mid-August and then again for five days this month.
That latest visit coincided with a tense meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Canadian sources say that, when pressed behind closed doors, no Indian official has denied the explosive allegation at the heart of this case: that there is evidence suggesting the Indian government’s involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.
“I can assure you that the decision to share these allegations in the House of Commons … was not made lightly,” Trudeau said Thursday in New York after attending the United Nations General Assembly.
“It was done with the utmost seriousness.”
The Canadian government has not released its evidence and has suggested it could emerge during an eventual legal process.
India accuses Canada of harboring terrorists
The dispute has poisoned Canada’s relationship with India, a rising international power, just as the United States courts it as a potential ally.
The Indian government has angered Canada for, it believes, harboring Sikh separatists, including Nijjar, whom it called a terrorist.
The growing dispute has already resulted in the expulsion of diplomats from both Canada and India. The situation escalated on Thursday when India stopped processing visitor visas in Canada.
Canada is considering retaliating but has not made any decisions yet, government sources in Ottawa said. Trudeau dodged that question Thursday.
When asked about the intelligence reports, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she could not comment without risking the investigation and Canada’s obligations to its Five Eyes partners.
“That partnership relies heavily on … intelligence conversations being kept confidential,” he told Breaking: Network’s Power & Politics host David Cochrane.
Asked if Ottawa is considering retaliating and suspending visa processing for Indian visitors, Freeland said the government is focused on bringing the killers to justice.
“It’s not about geopolitics. It’s about Canada, it’s about the safety of Canadians in Canada. It’s about the rule of law,” he said.
No exemption for allies in “actions like this”: US
The story has resonated internationally, including in Washington. There were several questions about it during the daily White House briefing.
The US government has neither confirmed nor denied that it was the Five Eyes ally that provided some of the intelligence signals.
But one of the most senior officials in the US government confirmed that the United States has been in frequent contact with Canada on this issue.
The official, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, revealed that the US has also discussed the matter with the highest levels of the Indian government.
He said the United States is deeply concerned and wants the investigation to continue and the perpetrators brought to justice.
He insisted that U.S. interest in this case will not disappear simply because it involves India, a powerful democracy with which it longs for closer ties.
“It’s something we take seriously. It’s something we will continue to work on. And we will do it regardless of the country,” Sullivan said.
“There is no special exemption for actions like this. Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles.”
He also aggressively rejected media reports suggesting that the United States had refused to defend Canada in this matter.
“I have seen in the press some efforts to try to drive a wedge between the United States and Canada on this issue. I firmly reject that there is a wedge between the United States and Canada,” he said.
He The Financial Times reported Thursday night that US President Joe Biden and other Five Eyes members raised the assassination directly with Modi during the recent G20 summit. The report cited three sources familiar with the discussions.
The Canadian government has refused to discuss Modi’s knowledge of or involvement in the case. The Indian government did not respond to CBC’s requests for comment.
When asked how far accountability could go and whether Ottawa expected legal repercussions for senior officials in the Indian government, Canada’s ambassador to the UN avoided the question.
“I’d rather not go there. I don’t think it’s smart for me to do that,” Bob Rae responded at a news conference.
“I like my job. I’d rather not lose it.”
He added that the murder of a Canadian, on Canadian soil, is an affront to both the victim and the national sovereignty of Canada, its territory and a common international understanding of borders.
See: Canada has communications from Indian diplomats on Nijjar murder, sources say: