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Canada’s prime minister said there are “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 told members of parliament on Monday that Canadian authorities were investigating whether “agents” from 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 also 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 cooperation to come to the bottom of this.”
Trudeau was in India last week for the G20 summit and told parliament he raised the allegations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The move from Ottawa could worsen the already strained relationship between the two countries. Canada’s trade minister last week postponed a trade mission to Mumbai until 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 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 move.
Modi, often described as a Hindu nationalist, spoke with Trudeau last week at the G20 summit. Afterwards, Modi’s office described pro-Khalistan protests in Canada as “promoting secession and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada”.
The government of India had accused Najjar, a Sikh nationalist, of terrorism and blacklisted him. It has also offered rewards for his arrest. In 2016, Najjar wrote a letter to Trudeau calling India’s claims 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 the gurdwara – a Sikh house of worship – where he was president, the World Sikh Organization of Canada called his death a “murder” and called on Ottawa to investigate India’s role in the killing. Police in British Columbia said last month they had identified three suspects in the killing, although 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”.