TORONTO — Canadian authorities are pursuing “credible allegations” tying agents of the Indian government to the slaying of a prominent Sikh leader on Canadian soil in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told lawmakers Monday.
Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, did not detail the allegations. He said he had taken his “deep concerns” to top Indian security and intelligence officials and also conveyed them “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit this month.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing 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 conduct themselves.”
Trudeau said Canadian authorities were coordinating with their allies. He urged the Indian government to cooperate with them “to get to the bottom of this matter.”
The Indian High Commission in Canada — the equivalent of an embassy among Commonwealth nations — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Melanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, told reporters 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 issue with President Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and that it would be a topic of discussion at the U.N. 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 slaying. He did not directly answer repeated questions about whether Indian authorities are hindering Canada’s investigation.
Canada is home to one of the world’s largest Sikh diaspora communities, and Nijjar’s murder on June 18 rattled it. Police called the incident “targeted,” and his lawyer told local media that he had been warned by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of threats against him.
The killing sparked protests in Canada and abroad, and some Sikhs said they believed the Indian government, which had labeled Nijjar a “terrorist,” was involved.
“The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated for Sikhs,” 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 targets Sikhs in Canada.”
Trudeau on Monday acknowledged that members of the Indo-Canadian community “are feeling angry or perhaps frightened.”
“Let us not allow this to change us,” he said. “Let us remain calm and steadfast in our commitment to our democratic principles and our adherence to the rule of law.”
The prime minister’s announcement came amid a backdrop of strained ties between Canada and India. Canadian officials said this week they had canceled a long-planned trade mission to Mumbai next month. Modi did not hold an official bilateral meeting with Trudeau during the Group of 20 summit, but chided him on the sidelines, according to New Delhi.
Modi conveyed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” India’s ministry of external affairs said in a statement on Sept. 10. “They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship.”