Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing the government of India of involvement in the fatal shooting of a Canadian Sikh leader — a claim that will have seismic effects on an already shaky bilateral relationship.
Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar was brazenly shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C. on June 18.
Nijjar, a supporter of a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state, had been branded by the Indian government as a “terrorist” and accused of leading a militant separatist group — something his supporters have denied.
Now, Trudeau said, Canada’s national security apparatus has reason to believe that “agents of the Indian government” carried out the killing of this Canadian citizen, who also served as the president of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.
“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, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said Monday in a speech to the House of Commons.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.
“As you would expect, we have been working closely and co-ordinating with our allies on this very serious matter.”
A senior government source told CBC News that Trudeau has briefed the leaders of some of Canada’s closest allies about the case, including U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.
Trudeau also urged the Indian government to participate in the ongoing investigation and “co-operate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
India’s ministry of external affairs issued a statement Monday night rejecting Trudeau’s allegations, calling them “absurd.”
“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
“The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern.”
Trudeau said some Indo-Canadians are feeling “angry” and “perhaps frightened right now.”
“Let us not allow this to change us,” he said.
Canada expels senior Indian diplomat
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she has ordered the expulsion of “a senior Indian diplomat.”
Joly’s office said that diplomat is Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada.
“My expectations are clear. I expect India to fully collaborate with us and get to the bottom of this,” Joly said.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the RCMP is leading the murder investigation.
“We’ll hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice,” he said.
B.C.’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is responsible for the Nijjar file.
“It’s progressing,” RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme told CBC News when asked about the investigation.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada, a group that represents Sikh interests, said Nijjar spoke of “threats to his life” before his alleged murder.
He also claimed he was being targeted by India’s intelligence agencies, the WSO said in a media statement.
Sikh group says ‘India actively targets Sikhs in Canada’
The WSO said “several other Canadian Sikhs are also understood to be under threat” and are on Indian “hit lists.”
“The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated for Sikhs,” the WSO said.
“Today, the prime minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades — India actively targets Sikhs in Canada.”
Trudeau said he raised the matter with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week at the G20 summit in New Delhi.
Trudeau and Modi have long had a frosty relationship.
After the bilateral meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of that summit, the Indian government released a tersely worded communique that said Modi raised with Trudeau “strong concerns about continuing anti-Indian activists of extremist elements in Canada.”
The statement said there are elements in Canada “promoting secessionism” and “inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada.”
The Indian government called on the two countries to co-operate in dealing with “such threats.”
The Canadian communique on the same meeting made no mention of “secessionism.” It’s now clear why.
Last Tuesday, Trudeau and the Canadian delegation left India after an extended stay caused by a technical problem on the prime minister’s plane.
One member of the delegation was absent.
National Security Adviser Jody Thomas quietly left India for London, U.K., instead, a government source told CBC News.
She informed the U.K. government that Canada’s relations with India were about to get worse now that Canada had credible evidence linking India’s government to Nijjar’s death, the source said.
Trudeau also briefed the Opposition leaders personally Monday before rising to tell Canadians about this development.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said it’s “outrageous” that India may be behind Nijjar’s killing.
“Our citizens must be safe from extrajudicial killings. Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil. We call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder. The truth must come out,” Poilievre said.
“Let us lock arms and join hands in condemning this murder, standing with the family and the friends of this victim. Let’s put aside our difference to stand up for the rule of law. One law for all our people.”
In his own speech, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh blasted the Indian government under Modi, a Hindu.
Singh said the Modi-led government has been “one of division, violence, persecution” with a known pattern of “attacking those who are critical” of its actions.
Singh said he’d use “every tool” at his disposal to “bring those responsible to justice.”
“We will ensure that no rock is unturned, that every possible link is examined,” Singh said.
He said that the public inquiry into foreign interference, which was prompted by allegations of Chinese meddling, should also look at India and its actions in Canada.
B.C. Premier David Eby said he was “deeply disturbed and angered” by the news.
“In light of these revelations, we will do all we can to enhance protection for the people of British Columbia against the violence or threats of state actors,” he said in a media statement.
“Our government will fully and enthusiastically support any federal efforts to ensure those responsible are held personally accountable.”
Canadian Sikhs protest against Indian government over murder – CTV News
- Deliver and maintain Google services
- Track outages and protect against spam, fraud, and abuse
- Measure audience engagement and site statistics to understand how our services are used and enhance the quality of those services
- Develop and improve new services
- Deliver and measure the effectiveness of ads
- Show personalized content, depending on your settings
- Show personalized ads, depending on your settings
Select “More options” to see additional information, including details about managing your privacy settings. You can also visit g.co/privacytools at any time.
Unpacking India-Canada tensions amid Trudeau’s bombshell allegations
Montreal, Canada – When Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last week that his government was investigating possible ties between India and the June killing of a Canadian Sikh leader, Moninder Singh says one of his initial feelings was “validation”.
“For 40 years, our community has been working to bring foreign interference from India to light,” said Singh, spokesman for the British Columbia Gurdwaras Council, a coalition of Sikh temples, including the one where Hardeep Singh Nijjar was killed.
His sense of validation was “not only at the fact that foreign interference by India was being recognised”, Singh told Al Jazeera, but also that Nijjar’s death “wasn’t some localised matter; that there was a foreign hand in it”.
“But on the other side of it, there was also – amongst myself and the whole community – a sense of frustration, as well, as it [took] an assassination of a Sikh leader in a gurdwara for this acknowledgement to happen.”
Nijjar was fatally shot outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a city southeast of Vancouver, on June 18. His death immediately fuelled concerns and outrage within the local community, but it was Trudeau’s allegations, made in the House of Commons, that set off a diplomatic crisis between Canada and India.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” the prime minister said on September 18.
India has forcefully denied Canada’s claims – calling them “absurd” and politically motivated. It has also accused Canada of not doing enough to stem anti-India activism and what it dubs “Sikh extremism”.
The ongoing row has highlighted long-simmering tensions between the two countries over a Sikh campaign for a sovereign state in India’s Punjab region known as the Khalistan movement that has supporters in parts of Canada.
It also has raised questions about the future of their relationship, as both have expelled each other’s diplomats. India has announced the suspension of visa processing for Canadians, as well.
“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Indian government said on September 19.
Sikh diaspora in Canada
Nijjar, a prominent Canadian Sikh leader who served as president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara where he was killed, advocated for Khalistan.
Dating back decades but now largely dormant inside India itself, the movement retains some support in the Sikh diaspora, including in Canada, which is home to a Sikh community of more than 770,000 people – the largest outside of India.
In 2020, India accused Nijjar of making “hateful speeches” and “seditionary and insurrectionary imputations” and designated him as being “involved in terrorism” – allegations (PDF) rejected by Singh, who was a close associate of the slain leader. “There’s no evidence behind any claims they’ve made,” Singh said.
Nijjar’s killing, he added, aimed “to silence a very prominent Sikh leader that was advocating for Sikh sovereignty in Khalistan”.
That was echoed by Prabjot Singh, the Canada-based editor of the Panth-Punjab Project digital platform and a supporter of the Khalistan movement, who told Al Jazeera he was 13 or 14 years old when he was first told to be careful about being too vocal about his political views.
“Don’t voice your opinions too loud,” the 32-year-old recalled relatives and friends telling him.
“Pretty much anybody calling for a separate state or even [anybody who has] politics that are critical of human rights violations … India interprets [that] as extremism,” Prabjot Singh said.
“That strategy of labelling political activism and human rights advocacy as extremism is its attempt to delegitimise any critique of India and to hopefully inspire a security-based response against political speech.”
For him, the issue centres around the question of Sikh sovereignty; he says that since the end of British rule nearly 80 years ago, when Punjab was split between India and its neighbour Pakistan, the Indian authorities have rejected “any kind of discussion” of what that could mean.
“The root of this is that unresolved transfer of power in 1947 and really grappling with this question of Sikh self-determination and what it’s going to look like today,” he said. “And for us, it’s unequivocally Khalistan.”
While the Khalistan movement traces its roots to the end of British colonial rule, Reeta Tremblay, a professor emerita of political science at the University of Victoria who specialises in South Asia, said the “ethno-nationalist” push really grew in the 1970s and 1980s.
That’s when there was a rise in what Tremblay described as a “very strong, violent political insurgency” among Sikhs in India, who today make up about two percent of the population, demanding their own state.
That campaign culminated in a June 1984 military raid ordered by then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the holiest site in Sikhism – the Golden Temple – to root out separatist leaders. Hundreds of people were killed in India’s Operation Blue Star, and months later, Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, setting off a new wave of anti-Sikh riots, arrests and deadly violence.
Tremblay told Al Jazeera that many members of the Sikh diaspora whose families sought refuge in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia amid the violence in Punjab still carry unresolved memories of what happened there.
“There has been no truth and reconciliation with this community,” she said. Still, she added that Canadian Sikhs who are active in the Khalistan movement today remain a small – albeit vocal – minority.
“You can’t really label all the Sikh community [in Canada by] saying that they are terrorists and they are actively pursuing [this]. They might have sympathies for the Khalistani groups, but it’s a very small minority which pursues it,” she said.
Gurpreet Singh, an independent journalist and broadcaster with Spice Radio 1200 AM in Burnaby, British Columbia, agreed. “[The] Sikh community is also very diverse – not all the Sikhs support Khalistan,” he said.
Even supporters of Khalistan such as Nijjar, whom Gurpreet Singh said he interviewed about one month before he was killed, argue that they are not doing anything unlawful. Nijjar, for example, was helping organise a non-binding referendum on an independent Sikh state, which drew the ire of New Delhi but fell within the bounds of Canadian law.
“He always insisted that, ‘We want Khalistan through democratic and peaceful means’, and [a] referendum is a democratic exercise,” said Gurpreet Singh.
The journalist said the Khalistan movement has re-emerged stronger in recent years in response to the policies of India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been in power since 2014.
Modi’s government has targeted political opponents, journalists and religious minorities, including Muslims and Sikhs, in what rights groups have said is an ongoing effort to stifle dissent. New Delhi has rejected accusations of rights abuses as interference in its internal affairs.
“This current right-wing, Hindu nationalist government is trying to create a false enemy,” Gurpreet Singh told Al Jazeera.
“Khalistan was a dead movement. It was done. It was decimated by the mid-90s. How come they have re-emerged and become so strong and vocal?” he said. “Ever since [Modi] became the prime minister, this movement became stronger. With what is happening with minorities, I would say it’s like a spillover effect of that.”
Indian intelligence in Canada
India, however, views the Khalistan movement as a threat to its national security.
In April, Indian authorities arrested a 30-year-old Sikh leader in Punjab, Amritpal Singh, who had been calling for an independent Sikh homeland. Police accused Singh and his supporters of a series of offences, including attempted murder.
But as the movement has largely retreated in India after the state’s crackdown decades ago, the Indian government has pushed other countries – notably Canada – to do more to root out groups and individuals it accuses of being involved with Sikh separatism.
This long-standing position has hardened under Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). More recently, support in the Sikh diaspora for Indian farmers’ protests against contentious farm bills passed by the Modi government renewed tensions between the two countries.
But India’s concerns over Sikh separatists in Canada really ramped up in the 1980s with the downing of Air India Flight 182, explained Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
The June 1985 bombing, which authorities have said was carried out by Sikh separatists based in British Columbia in retaliation for Operation Blue Star, killed all 329 people on board. Canada describes it as “the worst terrorist attack” in its history.
“We do have extremists in Canada since 1985 and we’ve been investigating those and we’ve been monitoring those and we’ve been trying to neutralise those as much as possible,” Juneau-Katsuya told Al Jazeera.
Canada and India bolstered intelligence-sharing in 2018 to tackle “terrorism and violent extremism”, and for years before that, the two countries had been deploying intelligence officers to each other’s countries, said Juneau-Katsuya.
But he added that since the 1980s, India also has been “covertly sending operators” to infiltrate Sikh communities in Canada. “Those operators have been spying on the community, collecting information on individuals, reporting the information back to New Delhi,” he said. “And that community literally lives in fear because of that foreign interference.”
According to Juneau-Katsuya, a major problem for Canadian authorities is that India wants them to employ what he called “Indian methods” to deal with the issue of Sikh separatism.
Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have documented the Indian government’s hardline approach in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s, including so-called “counterinsurgency operations” that “led to the arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance of thousands of Sikhs”.
“It’s not going to happen” in Canada, said Juneau-Katsuya, who served as CSIS chief for the Asia-Pacific region, including India, in the 1990s. “Thus, their criticism, thus their grievance with us that we are not acting more decisively like they do.”
Fears of polarisation
Now, with tensions between India and Canada reaching a fever pitch, some members of the South Asian diaspora in Canada have cautioned that the heated discourse could deepen divisions and political polarisation.
Last week, Indian media outlets zeroed in on comments made by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, leader of the United States-based group Sikhs for Justice, which has been banned in India, after Canada levelled its allegations against the country.
Pannu, who has been accused (PDF) by New Delhi of being “involved in terrorism”, called on all Hindus to leave Canada in a video posted online. His statement drew condemnation from Canadian legislators, including several of Sikh descent.
“To Hindus across Canada. This is your home and you deserve to be here,” Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, wrote on social media.
“To Hindu Canadians & and Indians from all backgrounds: Anyone who says you do not deserve to be safe & welcomed in your home does not embody the values of freedom & kindness we hold dear as Canadians,” Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness, also said.
For Gurpreet Singh, the journalist, Pannu’s comments are unacceptable.
“Not all Hindus are RSS [Hindu supremacist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] supporters; not all Sikhs are Khalistanis,” he said. “But this kind of discourse is creating problems, frictions, and creating divisions because you are made to choose your sides.”
He said a similar “us versus them” discourse played out in the South Asian diaspora in the 1980s after Operation Blue Star in Punjab. “They were living in a very polarised environment,” Gurpreet recalled.
“That environment is being recreated and Modi is definitely responsible for this – no doubt about it. But Sikhs for Justice and people like Pannu who made that statement [are] actually complimenting him. So I’m a bit concerned.”
Calls for accountability
In the meantime, Canada has called on India to cooperate in its investigation into what happened to Nijjar. “We’re not looking to provoke or cause problems,” Trudeau told reporters late last week.
“But we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law, and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians and standing up for our values,” the prime minister said.
India, for its part, has continued to deny any involvement in Nijjar’s case while doubling down on its claims that Canada is home to “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.
For Sikhs in the diaspora, especially those who actively support the Khalistan movement, concerns around Indian foreign interference persist – and many are calling for investigations into its extent.
Pritpal Singh, coordinator of the American Sikh Caucus Committee in the US, told The Intercept at the weekend that the FBI warned him and two other Sikh Americans in June about a threat to their lives. “They did not tell us specifically where the threat was coming from, but they said that I should be careful,” he said.
In an open letter on Friday, Pritpal Singh called on US lawmakers to “ensure the safety and security of Sikh Americans, who are increasingly targeted and threatened” amid “growing evidence of India’s transnational repression”.
Back in Canada, Moninder Singh at the BC Gurdwaras Council also told Al Jazeera that he was among five Sikh leaders – including Nijjar – who were warned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s national security division last year about threats against their lives.
While the threat level against him eventually decreased, Singh said Nijjar’s remained high – and the slain leader delivered a speech on the day he was killed in which he said that “he felt that people were closing in on him”, Singh said.
The killing, he added, has generated a discussion around what steps to take “to not only secure ourselves here but also in securing justice for [Nijjar]”, and he called for a public inquiry into the Indian government’s interference in Canada.
“Now that it’s actually been formally declared on the Parliament floor, it should be followed up on. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Canada travel advisory to India updated to include protests, ‘negative sentiments’
Canada has updated its travel advisory for India(opens in a new tab) to include warnings about protests and “negative sentiments” towards Canadians in light of a recent breakdown in Canada-India relations.
Global Affairs Canada is urging travellers to exercise a high degree of caution when visiting the South Asian country.
“In the context of recent developments in Canada and in India, there are calls for protests and some negative sentiment towards Canada on social media,” reads an update to the travel advisory. “Please remain vigilant and exercise caution.”
The update comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India last week of being involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen wanted for several years by authorities in that country.
Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down in June(opens in a new tab) outside a Sikh temple in temple in Surrey, B.C., a Vancouver suburb with a high Sikh population. Nijjar was a prominent member of a political movement to create an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan. At the time of his murder, he was working with the group Sikhs for Justice to organize an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora.
Trudeau called for India’s help to investigate before revealing there were “credible allegations” implicating India’s government in the killing. Then, last Tuesday, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat.
India called the allegations absurd and fired back by expelling a Canadian representative.
The Indian government also halted all visa services for Canadian citizens and, five days before Canada updated its travel advisory, urged Indian citizens in Canada to exercise caution over “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence” here.
“Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students in particular are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant,” reads the travel advisory.(opens in a new tab)
Meanwhile, Sikh activists are urging the diaspora in Canada to gather outside Indian embassies in protest of the killing.
Over the weekend, Sikhs for Justice director Jatinder Singh Grewal told Reuters his organization will lead demonstrations outside the Indian embassies and consulates in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver to increase public awareness about Nijjar’s killing.
– With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters
Exclusive: British Museum launches webpage to recover stolen objects—and announces return of 60 items – Art Newspaper
Canadian Sikhs protest against Indian government over murder – CTV News
Downtown art installation features 30-foot towers – Collingwood News – CollingwoodToday.ca
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Business23 hours ago
The bad economic times have only just started
Media24 hours ago
Big media rallies on signs of end to Hollywood writers’ strike
Business24 hours ago
Routine bank visit devolved into ‘dehumanization,’ says Black customer
News22 hours ago
Black RCMP Officers Speak Out on Systemic Racism
Media18 hours ago
Media.Monks applies AI to generate highlights, new media content for Gen Z
Business11 hours ago
Narrow support for Unifor-Ford deal may leave GM, Stellantis workers wanting more
News16 hours ago
India Canada News Live Updates: Barriers placed outside Indian Consulate in Vancouver ahead of planned protest of Khalistan supporters
News14 hours ago
Unpacking India-Canada tensions amid Trudeau’s bombshell allegations