• Monday, June 24, 2024


Nijjar murder arrests, report on ‘meddling’ put India under scanner in Canada

On May 3, the arrests of three men in connection with the murder of the Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar were made and the first report of the inquiry into external forces’ alleged meddling in Canadian elections was released.

(L-R) Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (Photo by ALBERTO PEZZALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (Photo by ALBERTO PEZZALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIA’S alleged interference in Canadian affairs has come to the fore over the past few days after two major developments occurred in the North American nation on the same day (May 3) — arrest of three Indian men in connection with the murder of a prominent Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia last year and the release of the first report of the inquiry into external forces’ alleged meddling in Canadian elections.

While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia confirmed the arrest of the three men, all in their 20s, and charged them with crimes related to the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023,

The RCMP in British Columbia said Friday that they had arrested three men and charged them with crimes related to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a pro-Khalistan activist, last year. On the other hand, the commissioner of the inquiry report, Marie-Josée Hogue, said India had interfered in both the federal elections of 2019 and 2021 and that the focus of the foreign interference was mainly around the diaspora communities based in Canada.

Read: Canada arrests 3 men in Nijjar murder case: What we know so far

While welcoming the arrests, Sikhs in Canada, interviewed by CBC News, also conveyed that within their community, a concern prevails about potential repercussions for those who oppose what they perceive as repression and intimidation from New Delhi.

Moninder Singh, a member of the British Columbia Sikh Gurdwara Council and a friend of the slain Sikh leader, opined that the root of the issue — the Indian government — was yet to be addressed.

In an interview that was aired on Sunday (5) on Rosemary Barton Live talk show on CBC, he said India remains the “bigger question”.

Read: Indian foreign minister reacts to Canada arresting 3 men over Nijjar murder

“The suppression of the Khalistan movement in Canada has been a long-standing piece for them for 40 years. This is a bit of a validation and vindication for the community that has been saying for 40 years that India is interfering, and we need to be aware of them,” he was quoted as saying.

“It’s unfortunate it took the assassination of a Sikh leader on Canadian soil for us to get here, though.”

Opinions in India were the exact opposite to what Singh felt.

On Saturday (4), Indian external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India’s biggest problem now is Canada. Alleging that Ottawa was issuing visas to people with links to organised crime ignoring New Delhi’s warnings, he said,  “Our biggest problem right now is in Canada, because in Canada, actually today the party in power in Canada … [has] given these kind of extremism, separatism, advocates of violence a certain legitimacy in the name of free speech.”

The Indian diplomat also said India would wait for more information from the Canadian police about the three arrested men.

On Saturday, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa maintained a “fundamental commitment to protecting all of its citizens”.

“I know that many Canadians, particularly members of the Sikh community, are feeling uneasy and perhaps even frightened right now. Well, every Canadian has the fundamental right to live safely and free from discrimination and threats of violence in Canada,” he said.

Canadian public safety minister Dominic LeBlanc said in another interview on Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday that for his country’s government, safety of Canadians was of paramount significance.

“I think we need to have confidence that the RCMP will do the work, and those responsible for the killing of this Canadian citizen on Canadian soil will be held to account and face the justice system,” he told Barton.

On the charges of India’s interference in Canada’s internal affairs, LeBlanc said they have known for some time that New Delhi and its proxy agents were seeking to interfere in Ottawa’s democratic processes.

“Often, these agents of a foreign government use the Canadian diaspora community, Canadian citizens, as the targets of this kind of interference. That’s what’s insidious about it. These are Canadian citizens that want to participate in a democratic process in our country, as is entirely appropriate,” the minister was quoted as saying.

LeBlanc added that he has a piece of legislation to address some parts of the issue of external interference which is set to be introduced this week. While he did not specify what the legislation included, he said it was aimed at bolstering “Canada’s ability to detect and disrupt foreign interference”, CBC reported.

Related Stories