Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, did not detail the allegations. He said he had taken his “deep concerns” to senior Indian security and intelligence officials and had also conveyed them “personally and directly” and “in unequivocal terms” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of Nations summit. 20 this month.
“Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he said. “It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies are conducted.”
The Indian High Commission in Canada, the equivalent of an embassy among Commonwealth nations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trudeau’s explosive announcement came amid tensions in relations between Canada and India. Canadian officials said this week they had canceled a long-planned trade mission to Mumbai next month and paused trade talks. Modi did not have an official bilateral meeting with Trudeau during the Group of 20 summit, but rebuked him on the sidelines, according to New Delhi.
Modi expressed “strong concern over the continued anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement at the time. “They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic facilities and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship.”
Trudeau said Monday that Canadian authorities were coordinating with their allies in the investigation into Nijjar’s death. He urged the Indian government to cooperate with them “to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, told reporters on Monday that she had ordered the expulsion of an Indian diplomat whom she called “the head” of Indian intelligence in Canada. She said Trudeau had raised the allegations with president biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and which would be a topic of discussion at the UN General Assembly in New York this week.
Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s public safety minister, told reporters that Canadian security officials had made several trips to India in recent weeks to meet with their counterparts about Nijjar’s killing. He did not directly respond to repeated questions about whether Indian authorities are hindering Canada’s investigation.
Canada is home to one of the largest Sikh diaspora communities in the world, and Nijjar’s murder on June 18 shook it. Police called the incident “targeted” and members of the Sikh community said Nijjar told them the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had warned him there were threats against him.
The killing sparked protests in Canada and abroad, and some Sikhs said they believed the Indian government, which had called Nijjar a “terrorist,” was involved.
“The importance of today’s announcement for Sikhs cannot be overstated,” Tejinder Singh Sidhu, president of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, said in a statement. “Today, the Prime Minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades: India actively attacks Sikhs in Canada.”
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Nijjar’s lawyer, told the Washington Post that he believed Nijjar was the target of organizing a planned non-binding referendum in Canada on the creation of an independent Sikh state in Punjab to be called Khalistan. Pannun asked Trudeau to expel the Indian high commissioner to Canada.
Trudeau acknowledged Monday that members of the Indo-Canadian community “feel angry or maybe scared.”
“Let’s not let this change us,” he said. “Let us remain calm and remain firm in our commitment to our democratic principles and our adherence to the rule of law.”
In recent months, Indian officials have sounded the alarm about what they see as a possible resurgence of a Sikh separatist movement in Punjab. In April, authorities arrested Amritpal Singh, a self-described separatist, after a Month-long chase in which they imposed a partial internet shutdown and censored social networks. More than 200 suspected affiliates were also arrested amid fears of a resurgence of a Sikh insurgency that broke out in the 1980s.
Posters from protests following Nijjar’s death that featured photographs identifying Indian diplomats in Canada as his “killers” drew criticism from both Indian and Canadian government officials. Joly said at the time that Canada would meet its obligations under international treaties to safeguard diplomats.
Trudeau traveled to India for a week in 2018. The visit was overshadowed by revelations that Canada’s High Commission issued and then rescinded a dinner invitation to Jaspal Atwal, a businessman convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian politician in the 1980s.
The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where authorities consider it a major threat to national security, but it has some supporters across the majority Sikh state of Punjab and among large Sikh communities in Canada, Britain and elsewhere.
About 770,000 people in Canada declared their religion as Sikhism in the 2021 census. When Trudeau became prime minister in 2015, his cabinet included four members of Sikh origin. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the centre-left New Democratic Party, is also a Sikh.
Singh, who attended Khalistan rallies before becoming party leader, said he grew up hearing stories about India denying visas to members of the diaspora who expressed concern about its human rights record and people suffering “violence, torture and even death” when they returned. .
“I grew up hearing those stories, but to hear the prime minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something I could never have imagined,” he told lawmakers after Trudeau spoke. “That security that so many Canadians feel now has been shaken, shocked and destabilized.”
Much of Canada’s political debate in recent months has revolved around alleged interference by foreign governments in the country’s internal affairs. The debate has mainly focused on leaks in the Canadian media about China’s alleged meddling in the country’s elections, but Jody Thomas, the prime minister’s national security adviser, has said India is another source of interference.
The Trudeau government, under pressure from opposition lawmakers, announced this month it would launch a public inquiry into foreign interference. Judge Marie-Josée Hogue has been appointed to assess “interference by China, Russia and other foreign states or non-state actors.”
LeBlanc told reporters last week that the investigation’s terms of reference allow Hogue to “follow the evidence and look at all the countries that seek to interfere.”