The Prime Minister of Canada has stated that there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the June shooting death of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia.
Justin Trudeau’s claims elicited a harsh response from New Delhi, as well as a series of diplomatic expulsions, widening the schism between the two G20 members.
Trudeau informed members of parliament on Monday that Canadian officials were investigating if “agents” of New Delhi were behind the June shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a strong Sikh community.
“Canadian security agencies have been investigating credible claims of a potential connection between government of India agents and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau stated. “Any foreign government involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is a serious violation of our sovereignty.”
Trudeau told parliament that he raised the concerns with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting last week at the G20 conference in New Delhi.
According to Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, a top Indian ambassador was ejected from the nation on Monday. “We will protect Canadians at all times,” Joly assured reporters.”We expect India’s full cooperation in reaching the bottom of this.”
The Indian government called Trudeau’s declaration and Joly’s remarks “absurd and motivated” on Tuesday.
“Similar accusations were made to our Prime Minister by the Canadian Prime Minister and were totally rejected,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “We are a democracy with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”
The Indian administration also stated that a senior Canadian official had been asked to leave the country. “The decision reflects [the] government of India’s growing concern about Canadian diplomats interfering in our internal affairs and their involvement in anti-India activities,” New Delhi stated.
India-Canada ties have historically been difficult, as have personal relationships between their two prime ministers. In 2020, New Delhi accused Ottawa of interfering after Trudeau stepped out in support of protesting farmers, forcing Modi to cancel a proposed rewrite of agriculture law. Last week, the two countries stopped talks on a planned free trade pact.
Nearly 800,000 Sikhs live in Canada, many of whom dwell in Surrey and Brampton, both Toronto suburbs. Some Sikh Canadians back the Khalistan independence movement, which aims to establish an independent state in northern India’s Punjab state.
The Indian government rejects the movement and has long blamed Canada for harboring Sikh separatists, whom it called “Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who “continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” on Tuesday.
“It is deeply concerning that Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements,” New Delhi remarked.
The Indian government accused Nijjar, a Sikh nationalist, of terrorism and offered a reward for his capture. In 2016, Nijjar wrote to Trudeau, claiming that New Delhi’s claims were unfounded and that his activism was “peaceful, democratic, and protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
The World Sikh Organisation of Canada condemned Nijjar’s assassination on the grounds of the gurdwara — a Sikh institution of worship where he was president — an “assassination” and requested Ottawa to look into India’s involvement. Last month, British Columbia police stated they had identified three individuals, albeit they were not identified. There have been no arrests.
Sikh Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, claimed on X, formerly Twitter, that he would “leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable.”
Pro-Khalistan demonstrations in Canada and elsewhere this year enraged Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, with supporters storming New Delhi’s diplomatic missions in San Francisco and London.
India summoned Canada’s high commissioner in New Delhi in July after demonstrators staged a “Khalistan freedom rally” in Toronto and threatened Indian diplomats they suspected of being involved in Nijjar’s death.