October 2, 2023

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Justin Trudeau says “credible allegations” link India to the killing of a Sikh leader in Canada

Justin Trudeau says “credible allegations” link India to the killing of a Sikh leader in Canada

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The Canadian Prime Minister said there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the killing of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia, citing intelligence from national security agencies.

Justin Trudeau told MPs on Monday that Canadian authorities are investigating whether New Delhi “agents” were behind the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nigar, who was shot to death in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh community.

“Canadian security services are actively pursuing credible allegations of a possible link between Indian government agents and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said. He added: “Any foreign government involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

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

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

The Indian government on Tuesday rejected Trudeau’s statement in the Canadian Parliament, as well as Jolie’s statements, calling them “ridiculous and motivated.”

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

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Mourners carry the coffin of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nigar during a funeral procession in Surrey, Canada, in June. © Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press/AFP

Relations between India and Canada have been tense for a long time. New Delhi accused Ottawa in 2020 of interfering after Trudeau spoke out in favor of protesting farmers who forced Modi to abandon a planned sweeping overhaul of the farm law. The two countries halted talks on a planned free trade agreement last week.

Canada is home to approximately 800,000 Sikhs, many of whom live in Surrey and Brampton, a suburb of Toronto. Some Sikh Canadians support the Khalistan independence movement, which seeks to create a sovereign state in the northern Indian state of Punjab.

The Indian government condemns the movement 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.”

“The fact that Canadian political figures have publicly expressed sympathy for such elements remains deeply concerning,” New Delhi said.

The Indian government had accused Nigar, a Sikh nationalist, of terrorism and offered rewards for his arrest. In 2016, Najjar wrote a letter to Trudeau in which he called New Delhi’s allegations baseless and said his activism was “peaceful, democratic and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nigar’s killing on the grounds of the gurdwara — a Sikh house of worship, where he was president — an “assassination” and urged Ottawa to investigate India’s role. British Columbia police said last month they had identified three suspects, but did not identify them. No arrests have been made.

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Jagmeet Singh, the Sikh leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, said on X, previously on Twitter, that he would leave “no stone unturned in the 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 New Delhi’s diplomatic missions in San Francisco and London.

In July, India summoned Canada’s High Commissioner in New Delhi after protesters held a “Khalistan Freedom March” in Toronto and accused Indian diplomats of involvement in Najjar’s death.