Ottawa Alleges India Involved in Killing of Sikh Leader in Surrey, BC

Ottawa says there is “credible” intelligence suggesting that the Indian government was involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen in B.C. earlier this year.
Ottawa Alleges India Involved in Killing of Sikh Leader in Surrey, BC
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 10, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Noé Chartier

The Liberal government says there is “credible” intelligence that suggests the Indian government was involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen in British Columbia earlier this year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the allegation on Sept. 18 in the House of Commons as Parliament reconvened after the summer break.

“Over the past number of weeks, 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,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Mr. Nijjar, who advocated for a Sikh state independent of India, was gunned down on June 18 in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, of which he was president, in Surrey, B.C.

The prime minister said that “all steps” would be taken to hold the perpetrators to account. He also said he raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to New Delhi recently for the G20 summit.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on Sept. 18 that a top Indian diplomat was expelled in response to Mr. Nijjar’s murder. Pavan Kumar Rai served as the head in Canada for the Indian foreign intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing.

Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc, speaking alongside Ms. Joly, said top Canadian security officials and the deputy minister of foreign affairs have made multiple trips to India in recent weeks to hold discussions on the matter with Indian officials.

Mr. Trudeau’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director David Vigneault travelled to India “on a number of occasions,” he said.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs rejected the allegation in a Sept. 19 statement. “Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” it said.

“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.”

Mr. Leblanc said the Canadian security services have had “credible intelligence” for a number of weeks on India’s potential involvement.

Immediately after the death of Mr. Nijjar, supporters pointed the finger at India and organized protests with material saying Indian diplomats were involved in the murder.

This led to New Delhi lodging an official protest with the Canadian representation in India, according to Indian media.

India has long accused Canadian authorities of turning a blind eye to the activities of Sikh militants who seek to form an independent Khalistan.

Mr. Nijjar has been charged in India under terrorism offences and the Khalistan Extremism Monitor says he was the leader of the Sikh separatist group Khalistan Tiger Force and affiliated with Babbar Khalsa International, which is listed by the Canadian government as a terrorist entity.
Mr. Nijjar had previously denied the allegations. He was involved in organizing a non-binding secession Sikh referendum.
The move to accuse India openly comes after the Liberal government recently said it was pausing trade talks with India without providing any explanation. International Trade Minister Mary Ng also announced the postponement of a planned trade mission to the country.

Mr. Trudeau had a tense trip in India for the G20, including not attending a leaders’ dinner organized by Mr. Modi and also pulling his hand away from Mr. Modi during a wreath-laying ceremony.

The two sides released statements after a brief encounter on the margins of the summit, with India calling out Canada for “continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.”

Ms. Joly said her government made the allegations public for transparency reasons, given the information circulating in the public sphere, and to protect the integrity of the investigation.

“For us it’s important to actively tell Canadians that we are there to protect them. We’re also there to protect our Canadian sovereignty,” she said.

Ms. Joly added that she would discuss the issue with her counterparts in New York City on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly.

“Right now we know we are in an international security crisis and one of the one of the fundamental rules behind the world stability and security is the protection of each country’s sovereignty and we see this possible breach of sovereignty as completely unacceptable.”