Skip to content
Trudeau rejects India’s denial of its involvement in Canada assassinations

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday strongly rejected the Indian government’s denial of any involvement in the assassination of a Sikh dissident in Canada, calling on India to take his country’s allegations seriously.

“We are not looking to provoke or degenerate,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa. “We are simply stating the facts as we understand them and we want to work with the Indian government.”

The prime minister stunned Canadians on Monday when he told the House of Commons that “agents of the Indian government” were behind the June shooting death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader and citizen Canadian, near a Sikh temple in the suburbs. Vancouver, British Columbia.

The prime minister gave no details to support his accusation that a nation ordered a political murder on its soil, citing only “credible allegations” pursued by Canadian security agencies for several weeks.

Canada’s intelligence agencies, noting the ongoing police investigation into Mr. Nijjar’s killing and the need to protect intelligence-gathering methods, declined to provide further details.

A Canadian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said the intelligence was collected by several countries. Canada is a member of the so-called Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance that includes the United States, Britain and Australia.

India has long claimed that Canada is harboring Sikh terrorists who are plotting from abroad to break up the Indian state by providing funds and planning to create a separate Sikh nation called Khalistan in India’s Punjab region. Mr. Nijjar was active in this independence movement.

He played a key role in rallying community members in British Columbia to vote for an independent state of Khalistan. The non-binding vote, organized by a Washington, D.C.-based group called Sikhs For Justice, is taking place in several cities around the world.

“I am a Sikh nationalist who believes and supports the right of Sikhs to self-determination and independence for Indian-occupied Punjab through a future referendum,” Nijjar wrote in an open letter in 2016.

Mr. Nijjar’s participation in the independent state movement played an important role in India’s categorical refusal of any involvement on Monday.

In its statement, India’s foreign ministry said it rejected “any attempt to link the Indian government” to Mr. Nijjar’s killing and accused Canada of harboring “extremists and terrorists” who “continue to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

Roland Paris, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a former foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, said the allegations and denial had created a sense of outrage and anger in Canada that cut across all political lines.

“This is a stunning and appalling set of allegations,” Professor Paris said. “If it is true that India is behind this murder, then this represents the most offensive and appalling form of political interference in a democracy, comparable to the behavior of some of the world’s worst authoritarian leaders .”

On Tuesday morning in Surrey, British Columbia, women dressed in colorful suits and saris came to pray and join a meal service offered by the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, the temple of which Mr. Nijjar was president.

The previous evening, outside the temple, Mr. Nijjar’s son, Balraj Singh Nijjar, said his father’s death remained a fresh wound for his family.

“He had even called home about five minutes before to prepare dinner,” his son said, speaking to reporters outside the temple. “It was kind of a big shock.”

Mihika Agarwal contributed reporting from Surrey, British Columbia.