Sikh and Muslim leaders in Canada have united in their call for the Canadian government to take decisive action to safeguard their communities following the initiation of an investigation into potential connections between India and the assassination of a prominent Sikh leader in the westernmost province of Canada. The recent revelations have stirred concern among Canadians, but they come as no surprise to the Sikh community, which has long grappled with security threats. In a joint news conference held in Ottawa, representatives from the World Sikh Organization of Canada and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) emphasized the need for immediate action to protect their communities.
The Investigation and International Response Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informed Parliament about the ongoing investigation into “credible allegations of a potential link” between Indian government agents and the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. India swiftly dismissed these allegations as “absurd” and accused Canada of harboring Sikh “terrorists and extremists.” Notably, Nijjar had been designated as a “terrorist” by the Indian government due to his involvement with groups advocating for a sovereign Sikh state in India.
Mukhbir Singh, a board member of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, revealed that they were aware of other threats against Canadian Sikhs, some of whom had been instructed to alter their daily routines for their safety, though he refrained from disclosing the sources of these threats.
Unity and Sovereignty Concerns Canada
Stephen Brown, the head of NCCM, stood alongside Mukhbir Singh and condemned Nijjar’s killing as an “unprecedented attack against Canadian sovereignty.” He stressed that the entire Canadian community should stand united against such acts, as any attack on a Canadian citizen speaking out for human rights and justice puts all Canadians at risk.
Decades-Long Tensions Canada
The investigation has exacerbated the already chilly relations between Canada and India, leading to the expulsion of diplomats from both sides. The underlying tension is rooted in a long-standing Sikh secessionist movement that traces back to the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. The movement’s peak in the 1980s witnessed calls for the creation of Khalistan, an independent Sikh homeland within the Indian state of Punjab.
Several key events contributed to escalating tensions, including the storming of the Golden Palace, a significant Sikh holy site, by the Indian military in 1984. This event, followed by the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, triggered a series of Sikh-led bombings and ongoing persecution of the Sikh community in India and abroad. India has persistently accused Canada of being lenient toward Sikh separatists, given its substantial Sikh diaspora.
Diplomatic Confrontation Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently reprimanded Prime Minister Trudeau during their brief meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. In an official statement, New Delhi accused Sikh protesters in Canada of “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada.”
Trudeau confirmed that he shared information regarding the potential link between Nijjar’s murder and Indian government agents during the G20 meeting with Modi. He called on the Indian government to cooperate with Canada in resolving the matter, emphasizing that any foreign government’s involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of sovereignty.
The Tragic Murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and prominent community leader and activist, was tragically shot on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. Najjar was associated with a group called “Sikhs for Justice,” which advocates for an independent Sikh state in India. According to Canadian media reports, the Indian authorities had designated him as a “terrorist” and accused him of planning to assassinate a Hindu priest.
A Call for Justice and Security
Mukhbir Singh urged Canada to apprehend those responsible for Nijjar’s murder, enhance security measures for Sikhs, review India’s diplomatic and intelligence operations in Canada, and cease intelligence sharing with New Delhi. He highlighted the concerns of the younger generation of Sikhs who have grown up in Canada, fearing persecution and the consequences of speaking out. The killing of Nijjar in 2023, on Canadian soil, is indeed a shocking reminder of the challenges faced by the Sikh community, both in Canada and abroad.
The call for action by Sikh and Muslim leaders in Canada underscores the need for a swift and thorough investigation into the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and heightened security measures to protect these communities. As Canada and India navigate their diplomatic tensions, it is crucial to address the concerns of both Canadian citizens and the Sikh diaspora, while also maintaining a commitment to justice and the rule of law.