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Citing intelligence from the National Security Services, Canada’s prime minister has said there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the shooting death of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia.
Justin Trudeau told members of parliament on Monday that Canadian authorities are investigating whether New Delhi’s “agents” were behind the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijar, who was shot dead in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey.
“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 intervention by a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said that an Indian diplomat was expelled from Canada on Monday. “We will protect Canadians at all times,” Jolie told reporters. “We expect India’s full cooperation to get to the bottom of this.”
Trudeau told parliament that he raised the allegations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting in New Delhi last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
The Indian government on Tuesday dismissed Trudeau’s statement in the Canadian parliament and Jolie’s comments as “absurd and motivated”.
“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister against our Prime Minister and they were categorically rejected,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement. “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”
Relations between India and Canada have been strained for a long time. In 2020, New Delhi accused Ottawa of interference after Trudeau spoke out in favor of farmers, who forced Modi to drop a planned overhaul of the farm bill. The two countries suspended talks on a planned free trade deal last week.
Canada is home to nearly 800,000 Sikhs, many of whom live in the Toronto suburbs of Surrey and Brampton. Some Sikh Canadians support the Khalistan Freedom Movement, which seeks to create a sovereign state in India’s northern Punjab state.
The Indian government condemns the move 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”.
“It is a matter of deep concern that Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements,” New Delhi said.
The Indian government charged Nijjar, a Sikh nationalist, with terrorism and offered a reward for his arrest. In 2016, Nijjar wrote a letter to Trudeau that dismissed New Delhi’s allegations as baseless and that his activity was “peaceful, democratic and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms”.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar’s killing on the grounds of the Gurdwara, the Sikh house of worship where he was president, a “murder” and urged Ottawa to investigate India’s role. British Columbia police said last month they had identified three suspects, although they have not been identified. Not arrested.
Jagmeet Singh, president of Canada’s New Democratic Party and a Sikh, said on Twitter earlier that X will “leave no stone unturned in our 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 embassies in San Francisco and New Delhi in London.
In July, India summoned Canada’s high commissioner to New Delhi after protesters staged a “Khalistan Freedom Rally” in Toronto and accused Indian diplomats of involvement in Nijjar’s death.