| 27 September 2023, Wednesday |

Canada’s Trudeau: not trying to provoke India, but wants answers over murder

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada is not attempting to irritate India by alleging that New Delhi was involved in the assassination of a leader of the Sikh separatist movement; rather, Ottawa wants Delhi to deal with the matter appropriately.

On Monday, Trudeau declared that credible claims linking New Delhi’s operatives to the June shooting death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in British Columbia were being vigorously investigated by Canadian security agencies.

Indian officials swiftly dismissed the claim as ludicrous and said that they were removing a Canadian envoy, further deteriorating already strained ties between the two G20 members.

According to Trudeau, the case had significant legal ramifications on a global scale.

“The Indian government must treat this issue extremely seriously. While doing that, we are not paying attention.

The affair has derailed protracted talks on a potential bilateral trade deal.

A source familiar with the situation said Canada’s decision to announce on Sept. 1 it was pausing the talksand announce on Sept. 15 it was postponing a major trade mission, set for next month, had been directly linked to concerns over the murder.

The source spoke on the grounds they not be identified, since they were not authorised to speak to reporters.

Canadian officials have so far declined to say why they believe India could be linked to Nijjar’s murder.

Canada has worked very closely with the United States, including on Trudeau’s statement on Monday about his country’s concerns over the killing, said the government source.

Trudeau, asked why Ottawa had spoken out now, said, “we wanted to make sure that we had a solid grounding in understanding what was going on … we wanted to make sure we were taking the time to talk with our allies.”

Sikh and Muslim organizations welcomed Trudeau’s remarks and called on his government to take swift action, including protecting Sikhs in Canada under threat and preventing Indian nationals tied to intelligence forces or human rights abuses from entering Canada, among other immediate steps.

“To see a Canadian attacked on Canadian soil by a foreign country — I think we can’t understate how shocking that news is,” World Sikh Organization of Canada board member Mukhbir Singh told a news conference.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims chief executive, Stephen Brown, speaking alongside Singh, added: “This assassination was an attack on all of us as Canadians. This is why we must take action.”

New Delhi, which urged Ottawa to act against anti-Indian elements, has long been unhappy over Sikh separatist activity in Canada.

Nijjar supported creating a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent, so-called state of Khalistan in India’s northern state of Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion, which borders Pakistan. India designated him as a “terrorist” in 2020.

Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.

  • Reuters