Justin Trudeau says ‘credible allegations’ linking India to killing of Sikh leader in Canada

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Canada’s prime minister has said there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the shooting death of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia in June.

Justin Trudeau’s allegations prompted a hostile response from New Delhi and a round of diplomatic expulsions, deepening the rift between the two G20 nations.

Canadian authorities are investigating whether New Delhi’s “agents” were behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijar in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, citing National Security Services intelligence.

“Canadian security agencies are actively pursuing credible allegations of possible links between Indian government agents and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said. “Any intervention by a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

Trudeau told parliament that he raised the allegations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting in New Delhi last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said that an Indian diplomat was expelled from Canada on Monday. “We will protect Canadians at all times,” Jolie told reporters. “We expect India’s full cooperation to get to the bottom of this.”

The Indian government on Tuesday dismissed Trudeau’s statement and Jolie’s comments as “absurd and motivated”.

“The Canadian Prime Minister made similar allegations to our Prime Minister which were categorically rejected,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”

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The Indian government also said it has asked a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country. “The result is reflective [the] “The Government of India is increasingly concerned about the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal affairs and their involvement in anti-India activities,” New Delhi said.

Mourners carry the casket of Sikh community leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar during his funeral in Surrey, Canada, in June. © Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/AP

Relations between India and Canada have long been strained, as have the personal ties between their two prime ministers. In 2020, New Delhi accused Ottawa of interference after Trudeau spoke out in favor of farmers, who forced Modi to drop a planned overhaul of the farm bill. The two countries suspended talks on a planned free trade deal last week.

Canada is home to nearly 800,000 Sikhs, many of whom live in the Toronto suburbs of Surrey and Brampton. Some Sikh Canadians support the Khalistan Freedom Movement, which seeks to create a sovereign state in India’s northern Punjab state.

The Indian government condemns the move and has long accused Canada of harboring Sikh separatists, whom it described on Tuesday as “Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who “continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“It is a matter of deep concern that Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements,” New Delhi said.

The Indian government charged Nijjar, a Sikh nationalist, with terrorism and offered a reward for his arrest. In 2016, Nijjar wrote a letter to Trudeau that dismissed New Delhi’s allegations as baseless and that his activity was “peaceful, democratic and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.

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The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar’s killing on the grounds of the Gurdwara, the Sikh house of worship where he was president, a “murder” and urged Ottawa to investigate India’s role. British Columbia police said last month they had identified three suspects, although they have not been identified. Not arrested.

Jagmeet Singh, president of Canada’s New Democratic Party and a Sikh, said on Twitter earlier that X will “leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable.”

Pro-Khalistan protests in Canada and elsewhere this year have angered Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, with supporters of the movement attacking embassies in San Francisco and New Delhi in London.

In July, India summoned Canada’s high commissioner in New Delhi after protesters staged a “Khalistan Freedom Rally” in Toronto and issued threats against Indian diplomats they accused of involvement in Nijjar’s death.

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