Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused agents of the Indian government of being involved with the shooting of a Sikh leader in British Columbia.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader, was shot dead by two masked gunmen outside of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia on 18 June.
Mr Trudeau said he had personally confronted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue to demand answers at this month’s G20 summit after finding a “potential link” between agents of India and the killing.
In a speech to Canada’s Parliament, he said: “Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
“Canada is a rule-of-law country, the protections of our citizens and defence of our sovereignty are fundamental. Our top priorities have been that our law enforcement agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians, and that all steps be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account.
“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence officials of the Indian government. Last week at the G20, I brought them personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in no uncertain terms.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty, contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”
He added: “As you would expect, we’ve been working closely and coordinating with our allies on this very serious matter. In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter, and expect it to reiterate its position on extrajudicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally in line with international law.”
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, the first Sikh politician to lead a Canadian political party, said the matter was “outrageous” and “going to have deep and devastating impacts for Canadians.”
He added: “I grew up hearing many stories that if you raise concerns about human rights violations in India, you might be denied a visa, that if you went back to India, you could suffer violence, torture and even death.
“I grew up hearing those stories, but to hear the Prime Minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between a murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something I could never have imagined.”
Mr Singh noted an increasing number of concerns about rights abuses under the premiership of Mr Modi, long accused of fanning the flames of Hindu nationalism and clamping down on dissent.
He said: “I want to speak directly to people of Indian descent who have come to Canada, who have spoken truth to power and challenged the oppressive practices of India – caste violence, violence against women, systemic abuse of minority communities. The Modi government is attempting to silence you, but truth cannot be silenced, justice cannot and will not be silenced.
“We know that the practice of the Indian government has been one of division, violence, persecution, attacking those who are critical of the government. It is time to send a clear message [and] we will ensure no rock is unturned and every possible link is examined.”
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said: “If these allegations are true, they represent an outrageous affront to Canada’s sovereignty. Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil, and we call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder. The truth must come out… let us all put aside our differences to stand up for the rule of law.”