Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat on Monday as part of an investigation into what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations that the Indian government may have had links to the Canadian killing of a Sikh activist.
Trudeau told Parliament that Canadian intelligence agencies were investigating the allegations after Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a staunch supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, was shot dead on June 18 outside a cultural center Sikh in Surrey, British Columbia.
Trudeau told Parliament he raised the killing with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 last week. He said he told Modi that any involvement by the Indian government would be unacceptable and requested his cooperation in the investigation.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada was expelled as a result.
“If this turns out to be true, it would constitute a serious violation of our sovereignty and the most fundamental rule on how countries deal with each other,” Joly said. “As a result, we expelled a senior Indian diplomat.”
The Indian embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
“In recent weeks, Canadian security agencies have actively pursued credible allegations regarding a potential link between Indian government agents and the murder of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said Canada had expressed its deep concerns to the Indian government. “Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
Trudeau said his government was working closely and in coordination with Canada’s allies on the matter.
“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the Indian government to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.
Trudeau said he knew some members of the Indo-Canadian community were feeling angry or scared, and he called for calm.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Canada’s national security adviser and Canada’s spy chief traveled to India to meet their counterparts and confront Indian intelligence agencies about the allegations.
He spoke of an active homicide investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Joly said Trudeau also raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden.
Relations between Canada and India have been strained in recent months. Trade negotiations have been derailed and Canada has just canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall.
Conservative opposition leader Pierre Poilievre said that if the allegations are true, they represent “a scandalous affront to our sovereignty.”
Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who is himself Sikh, called it outrageous and shocking. Singh said he grew up hearing stories that challenging India’s human rights record could prevent you from getting a visa to travel there.
“But hearing 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,” Singh said.
The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where authorities consider it and groups affiliated with it a threat to national security. But the movement still enjoys some support in northern India, as well as beyond, in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, which are home to a large Sikh diaspora.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar a staunch supporter of Khalistan who “has often led peaceful protests against the violation of human rights actively taking place in India and in support of Khalistan.”
“Nijjar had spoken publicly for months about the threat to his life and said he was the target of Indian intelligence agencies,” the statement said.