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Canada’s prime minister has said there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the fatal shooting of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia, citing intelligence from national security services.
Justin Trudeau told members of parliament on Monday that Canadian authorities were investigating whether “agents” from New Delhi were behind the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver with a large Sikh community.
“Canadian security agencies are actively pursuing credible allegations of a possible link between Indian government agents 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 also expelled from Canada on Monday, the country’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said. “We will protect Canadians at all costs,” Joly told reporters. “We expect India’s full cooperation to conclude.”
Trudeau was in India last week for the G20 summit and told parliament he had made the allegations to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The moves from Ottawa could worsen already strained relations between the two countries. Canada’s trade minister last week postponed a trade mission to Mumbai planned 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 northern India. The Indian government strongly opposes the movement.
Modi, often described as a Hindu nationalist, spoke with Trudeau at the G20 summit last week. Afterwards, Modi’s office described the pro-Khalistan protests in Canada as “supporting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada”.
The Indian government accused Najjar, a Sikh nationalist, of terrorism and blacklisted him. She also posted rewards for his arrest. In 2016, Najjar 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 Najjar was killed on the grounds of a gurdwara — a Sikh temple of worship — where he was president, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called his death an “assassination” and called on Ottawa to investigate India’s role in the killing. British Columbia police said last month they had identified three suspects in the murder, although they have not been identified. No arrests have been made.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic and Sikh Party, said on X, earlier Twitter, that he would leave “no stone unturned to seek justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable”.