Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to offer more evidence to support his shocking allegations that the Indian government was behind the killing of a Canadian, but said the decision to move forward was not taken lightly.
Trudeau was at the United Nations on Wednesday and Thursday, where he gave speeches about climate change and the war in Ukraine. On Monday, he stood up in the House of Commons and said Canada has “credible allegations,” that Indian government agents were involved in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh community leader in Surrey, B.C.
Nijjar was shot dead in his truck by two masked gunmen as he left his Sikh temple on June 18. He is the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and a prominent activist for the establishment of a separate state, called Khalistan, for Sikhs in India .
Asked about how certain he was of India’s involvement, Trudeau said Thursday he was in no rush to make the announcement.
“I can assure you that the decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons Monday morning was not taken lightly,” he said.
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There is an active RCMP investigation into Nijjar’s death and Trudeau said the government does not want to interfere in that process.
“We have a strict and independent justice system and a robust process that will follow their course and we call on the Indian government to engage with us to move forward in getting to the truth of this matter,” he said.
Senior government officials told the National Post that once the RCMP investigation is complete they expect it to corroborate the prime minister’s comments.
The accusations have sparked a tense set of diplomatic moves. Canada began the back-and-forth by expelling an Indian diplomat, who Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said was Canada’s top intelligence officer.
India soon responded, expelling a Canadian diplomat from India.
Canada also voluntarily removed staff from the Indian high commission in New Delhi and consulates in the country on Wednesday, citing threats made against embassy staff via social media.
Jean-Pierre Godbout, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said they are sending some people home, but keeping offices open.
“In light of the current environment where tensions have escalated, we are acting to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” he said. “As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust the staff presence in India.”
India has also stopped issuing visas for travel between Canada and India.
Trudeau said his government was not looking to provoke conflict with India, but had to stand up for international standards.
“There is no question that India is a country of growing importance. And a country that we need to continue to work with,” he said. “We are not looking to stir up or cause problems. But we are unequivocal about the importance of the rule of law and clear about the importance of protecting Canadians and standing up for our values.
He said the Indian government could help the situation by being more forthright.
“We call on the Indian government to work with us to take these allegations seriously and allow justice to take its course.”
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