TORONTO (AP) — Canada said Monday it would expel a top Indian diplomat as it investigates what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations that the Indian government may have had links to the killing in Canada of a Sikh activist.
Trudeau said in Parliament that Canadian intelligence agencies have been investigating allegations after Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, was shot dead on June 18 outside a center Sikh culture in Surrey, British Columbia.
Trudeau told Parliament that he mentioned the assassination with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-20 last week, that he told Modi that any involvement by the Indian government would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said that the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled as a result. “If this is proven to be true, it would be a huge violation of our sovereignty and the most basic rule of how countries relate to each other,” Ella Joly said. “As a result, we have expelled a senior Indian diplomat.”
The Indian embassy in Ottawa did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
“Over the past few weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between Indian government agents and the murder of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said Canada has expressed its deep concern to the Indian government.
“Last week at the G-20, I took it personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in very clear terms,” Trudeau said. “Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
Trudeau said his government has been working closely and coordinating with Canada’s allies on the case.
“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,” he said.
Trudeau said he knows there are some members of the Indo-Canadian community who feel angry or scared and called for calm.
Conservative opposition leader Pierre Poilievre said that if the allegations are true, they represent “a scandalous affront to our sovereignty.”
The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where officials view it and its affiliated groups as a threat to national security. But the movement still has some support in northern India, as well as further afield, in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, which are home to a sizeable Sikh diaspora.