Indian government officials may be behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader from British Columbia, the Canadian government announced Monday. An Indian intelligence officer was expelled from the country.
“As a result, we have expelled a senior Indian diplomat from Canada,” Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly told the media.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had just announced in the House of Commons that intelligence agencies were investigating “credible” allegations that there was “a possible connection” between the Indian government and the murder of Mr. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen.
The latter was shot dead in front of him Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. He was alone in his van when he was attacked as he left the place of worship parking lot.
Members of the Canadian Sikh community had accused the Indian government of being behind the killing and trying to silence voices calling for an independent Sikh nation for part of the state of Punjab. However, the police denied having any evidence of this.
Accusations to the Indian government
“I continue to strongly urge the Indian government to work with Canada to resolve this matter,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told all federal elected officials.
“I also expect the Indian government to reiterate that its position on extrajudicial operations in another country is clear and unequivocal in accordance with international law. »
Mr. Trudeau says he also raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi earlier this month. Senior Canadian intelligence officials have also traveled to India several times to question their counterparts in that country, said new Public Security Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
“This is an active homicide investigation being conducted by the RCMP [Gendarmerie royale du Canada] of British Columbia. […] We will ensure that the investigation continues and those responsible are brought to justice,” he said.
These allegations take former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya back to the time when Canada was at the center of the conflict between India and the Sikh extremist movement after Air India Flight 182 in Toronto had been attacked. Following the investigation, RCMP and CSIS were blamed.
“We know that the Indian intelligence agencies, especially the RAW [l’agence de renseignement extérieur de l’Inde]“Send secret agents here, to Canada, who have been operating in the community for a long time,” says the man who headed the Asia-Pacific office in the 1990s.
“It is very serious that the Prime Minister is saying this because he must be very aware that it will have repercussions, ripples in India immediately.” »
Relations between Canada and India have been tense for months. In recent weeks, Canada has suspended trade negotiations with India and canceled a trade mission to the country planned for this fall.
However, this country has been an integral part of the Canadian government’s recent Indo-Pacific strategy, which seeks to diversify its trading partners to contain China. The aim was to facilitate trade with other countries such as Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, but also India.
In 2020, Justin Trudeau’s support of large farmer demonstrations, which the Indian government equated with separatist movements, had already led to tensions between the two countries. Indian television networks began to imagine the recognition of an independent Quebec as retaliation.
Parliamentarians with one vote
The Prime Minister was not the only one to denounce India on Monday. Elected officials from all parties in Ottawa on the first day of the fall election cycle unanimously condemned that country’s alleged role in the crime. “We are all Canadians. This is our country,” said the leader of the official opposition, Pierre Poilievre.
“The Bloc Québécois offers its full cooperation and will work with the prime minister because this is a situation that we cannot accept,” also promised the bloc’s MP, Alain Therrien.
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh spoke at length about his experiences as a Canadian of Sikh descent. He, who spent part of his childhood in India, says he has heard countless stories in his community about human rights abuses, torture and murder committed by the Indian government against this religious minority.
“There is a Sikh doctrine of love and justice; This is what we need to focus on, rather than hate, frustration and fear,” he told Parliament.
The victim, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, had received death threats because he supported the creation of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan, in India. The man was accused of crimes related to terrorism and insurrection in this country. India’s National Investigation Agency had issued a charge sheet last year accusing him of conspiring to murder the Hindu priest in Punjab.
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