OTTAWA – Canada on Monday ordered an Indian diplomat to leave the country in response to what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “credible” intelligence linking Indian government agents to the shooting death of a Sikh leader near Vancouver. .
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead outside his gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. He was alone in his truck when he was attacked as he was leaving the parking lot of the place of worship.
Members of Canada’s Sikh community had accused the Indian government of being behind the murder and trying to silence voices calling for part of the state of Punjab to become an independent Sikh nation, but police denied having any evidence of this.
But in a somber speech in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Trudeau said the allegations were credible.
“In recent weeks, Canadian security agencies have actively investigated credible allegations that there is a possible link between agents of the Government of India and the murder of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” he stated.
“The involvement of any foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. Such an act goes against the fundamental rules that govern free, open and democratic societies,” Prime Minister Trudeau declared in the House.
The government is working “on this very serious matter in coordination with (its) main allies,” added Trudeau, who expects fluid collaboration from India.
“I continue to strongly urge and urge the Government of India to cooperate with Canada to clarify this matter. I also hope that the Government of India will reaffirm that its position on extrajudicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally consistent with international law,” he said.
Trudeau says he also raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi earlier this month.
The Prime Minister also stated that Canada will ensure that “the necessary steps are taken to hold the perpetrators of this murder accountable for their actions.”
Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly’s office said the person designated as persona non grata on Monday is Pavan Kumar Rai, whom her ministry lists on its public record as a diplomatic agent based in Ottawa.
Joly said Rai was the Canadian head of New Delhi’s research and analysis wing, an intelligence agency, and that he had been ordered to leave Canada “because” Ottawa wanted “full cooperation from India to ensure that we reach the background”. of this matter.” He did not say whether India had cooperated with any investigation.
India had issued an arrest warrant for Nijjar for his advocacy of a separate Sikh state in India’s Punjab region, which activists call Khalistan. India has long maintained that such activists undermine national security, although Canada insists its citizens enjoy freedom of expression if they do not incite violence.
The day after Mr. Nijar’s murder, the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a non-profit organization that claims to advocate for the interests of Canadian Sikhs, issued a news release calling the killing a “murder.”
The organization had argued that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and police “were aware of the threat to Mr. Nijjar, as well as other Sikh activists in Canada.”
Relations between Canada and India have been tense for months. In recent weeks, Canada suspended trade negotiations with India and canceled a trade mission to the country scheduled for this fall.
The news comes on the day a Quebec judge officially begins leading a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada. Last spring, national security adviser Jody Thomas said India was a major source of foreign interference in Canada.
A public inquiry called for
The advocacy group Sikhs For Justice said Trudeau’s statement confirmed its concerns that India played a role in Nijjar’s “murder” because of his advocacy for Punjabi independence.
The group’s US-based lawyer, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, called for violence against India, in comments that Joly had condemned in the past as unacceptable. The group on Monday urged the federal government to also expel India’s High Commissioner to Canada, Sanjay Kumar Verma.
The latter had previously rejected the idea of his country’s involvement in Nijjar’s death, stating last month that he wanted Canadian authorities to carry out “a thorough investigation.”
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Moninder Singh, spokesperson for the Sikh Gurdwara Council of British Columbia, argued that a public inquiry into Indian interference in Canada “must be carried out immediately.”
British Columbia Premier David Eby issued a statement saying he had received a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about the allegations made by Trudeau.
“I am deeply disturbed and angered by this information. “Canadians across the country must be free from interference from foreign governments, including the targeting of threats or physical violence, and even murder,” he said.
The opposition wants answers
New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, made an emotional statement in the House of Commons following Mr. Trudeau’s remarks.
“What we just learned today in the House is something that clashes with the security that so many Canadians depend on,” he said, adding that many people immigrated to Canada to be safe and free from violence and persecution.
“This is scandalous. It is shocking and will have profound and devastating impacts,” he added.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said India must “act with maximum transparency” in the investigation.
“Because the truth must triumph. We need to know who committed the murder and who was behind the murder,” she said.
The leaders of the four recognized parties in the House of Commons called on Canadians to maintain peace and order.
“Let us remain calm and steadfast in our commitment to our democratic principles and our adherence to the rule of law,” Trudeau said.
Joly assured that he would raise the issue with his G7 peers on Monday afternoon in New York, before the United Nations General Assembly. He said Trudeau also raised the allegations with US President Joe Biden in New Delhi last month.