OTTAWA: The Canadian authorities are pursuing “credible allegations” of links connecting agents of the Indian government to the slaying of a prominent Sikh leader on Canadian soil, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, said he had taken his “deep concerns” to top Indian security and intelligence officials.
He also conveyed them “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit this month, according to the Washington Post.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he said.
“It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had advocated for the creation of a separate Sikh state in the Punjab region of India, was fatally shot in his vehicle in June by two masked gunmen outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, British Columbia.
Nijjar, who was born in India but based in Canada, was president of the temple. He was 45.
Trudeau’s explosive announcement came amid strains in relations between Canada and India. Canadian officials said this week they had cancelled a long-planned trade mission to Mumbai next month and paused trade talks.
Trudeau said Monday that Canadian authorities were coordinating with their allies in investigating Nijjar’s death.
He urged the Indian government to cooperate with them “to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, told reporters Monday that she had ordered the expulsion of an Indian diplomat whom she called “the head” of Indian intelligence in Canada.
She said Trudeau had raised the allegations with President Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and that they would be a topic of discussion at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week.
Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s public safety minister, told reporters that Canadian security officials had made several trips to India in recent weeks to meet with their counterparts about Nijjar’s slaying.
He did not directly answer repeated questions about whether Indian authorities are hindering Canada’s investigation.
Canada is home to one of the world’s largest Sikh diaspora communities, and Nijjar’s killing on June 18 rattled it.
Police called the incident “targeted,” and members of the Sikh community said Nijjar told them he had been warned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of threats against him.
The killing sparked protests in Canada and abroad, and some Sikhs said they believed the Indian government, which had labelled Nijjar a “terrorist,” was involved.
“The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated for Sikhs,” Tejinder Singh Sidhu, president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said in a statement.
“Today, the prime minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades – India actively targets Sikhs in Canada.”
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Nijjar’s lawyer, told The Washington Post that he believed Nijjar was targeted for organizing a planned nonbinding referendum in Canada on whether to create an independent Sikh state in Punjab to be called Khalistan. Pannun called on Trudeau to expel the Indian high commissioner in Canada.
Trudeau on Monday (18th of September, 2023) acknowledged that members of the Indo-Canadian community “are feeling angry or perhaps frightened.”