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Canada’s prime minister said there were “credible allegations” that India’s government was involved in the fatal shooting of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia, citing intelligence from national security services.
Justin Trudeau on Monday told members of parliament that Canadian authorities were investigating whether “agents” of New Delhi were behind the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver with a large Sikh community.
“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
A top Indian diplomat was expelled from Canada on Monday, said Mélanie Joly, the country’s foreign minister. “We will protect Canadians at all times,” Joly told reporters. “We expect India’s full collaboration to get to the bottom of this.”
Trudeau was in India last week for the G20 summit and told parliament he brought up the allegations to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.
The moves from Ottawa may worsen the already strained relationship between the two countries. Canada’s trade minister last week postponed a trade mission to Mumbai set for October without giving a reason.
Canada is home to nearly 800,000 Sikhs, many of whom live in Surrey and Brampton, a suburb just outside of Toronto. Some Sikh Canadians support the Khalistan independence movement, which would create a sovereign state in Punjab in the northern part of India. The Indian government is strongly opposed to the movement.
Modi, often described as a Hindu nationalist, spoke to Trudeau last week at the G20 summit. Afterward, Modi’s office described pro-Khalistan protests in Canada as “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada”.
India’s government had accused Nijjar, a Sikh nationalist, of terrorism and blacklisted him. It has also posted bounties for his arrest. In 2016, Nijjar wrote a letter to Trudeau calling India’s allegations baseless and saying his activism was “peaceful, democratic and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
After Nijjar was killed on the grounds of the gurdwara — a Sikh house of worship — where he was president, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called his death an “assassination” and urged Ottawa to investigate India’s role in the killing. British Columbia police said last month that it had identified three suspects in the killing, though they were not identified. No arrests have been made.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic party and a Sikh, said on X, formerly Twitter, that he would leave “no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable”.