Canada’s Prime Minister has accused India of assassinating a Canadian on Canadian soil.
Oof. Things are getting spicy.
Here’s everything you need to know about the accusations.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Accuses India of Assassinating a Canadian on Canadian Soil
On Monday (18 September), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement that left many jaws wide open.
According to intelligence gathered by the Canadian government, “agents of the government of India” had assassinated Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh community leader, in British Columbia in June.
The problem? That Mr Nijjar was a Canadian.
If you don’t see the problem yet, here’s a more straightforward explanation: it’s like if a foreign nation sent agents to Singapore to assassinate a Singaporean.
Obviously, Singapore won’t be very pleased with this given that such an act violates Singapore’s sovereignty—and Canada feels the same.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Mr Trudeau said in the House of Commons.
This is not the first time these accusations have been brought to India’s attention. During the Group of 20 (G20) summit meeting in India earlier this month, Mr Trudeau had already raised this issue to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Canadian Response Thus Far
This brings us to the question: How now, brown cow?
For now, Canada has already expelled an Indian diplomat, who is apparently the head of India’s intelligence agency, from Canada.
The Canadian foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, also shared her plans to discuss the alleged Indian actions with Canadian allies.
Of course, Canada is also seeking the Indian government’s cooperation in investigations relating to Mr Nijjar’s death.
India Denies Justin Trudeau’s Allegations; Expels Canadian Diplomat in Response
But that’s far from the end of the story—India isn’t too pleased with Canada’s allegations.
On Tuesday (19 September), India’s foreign ministry denied Mr Trudeau’s allegations, adding that these accusations were “absurd” and politically motivated.
The foreign ministry also emphasised that Mr Modi already rejected these accusations when Mr Trudeau raised them at the G20 summit meeting.
Instead, India proves itself to be quite the tai chi master. Here’s why.
You see, Mr Nijjar was an advocate for Sikh separatism. Sikh separatism aims to create an independent state, Khalistan, which includes parts of India’s Punjab state.
That’s very clearly anti-India, and India also recognises this—India had declared Mr Nijjar a wanted terrorist in July 2020 for his involvement in secessionist activities.
So, the Indian foreign ministry now tai chis the problem back at Canada, saying that Canada should be taking “prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements” operating on Canadian soil instead of providing shelter to these Sikh separatists.
Essentially, India is saying that Canada buey brother lah.
And you best believe India isn’t pleased with Canada. On Tuesday (19 September), India also expelled one of Canada’s senior diplomats from India.
Macam getting kicked from a WhatsApp group chat.
Tension Between Canada and India Has Been Ongoing for Some Time
Regardless, it appears that the mutual expelling of foreign diplomats is far from the first show of hostility between the two nations.
During the G20 summit meeting, while Mr Modi had held more than 15 formal bilateral meetings with global leaders, including the US, UK, Japan, and Germany, Mr Trudeau was excluded from this list of leaders.
You can smell the beef cooking from miles away.
Earlier this month, Canada also suspended negotiations on a trade deal with India. Had Canada not done this, the trade deal was scheduled to have been concluded this year.
Suffice it to say, tensions between the two countries have been brewing for quite some time.
How the Killing of Mr. Nijjar Has Impacted the Sikh Community in Canada
But why is the killing of Mr. Nijjar such a critical issue to Canada? Sure, he’s a Canadian citizen, and the allegations against India, if true, represent a violation of Canada’s sovereignty. But is there more to the story?
Well, of course, there always is more to the story.
As it turns out, up to 4 per cent of Canada’s population is of Indian origin—that adds up to nearly 1.4 million Canadians, many of whom are Sikhs.
Canada has always been a “beacon of safety” for this Sikh repatriate community, according to Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party in Canada.
For context, many members of the Sikh expatriate community are apprehensive about returning to India, given rumours about possible retribution by India against those critical of the Indian government.
This fear held by the Sikh community isn’t without reason either. In the 1980s, the Indian government committed various human rights abuses in response to a Sikh insurgency in India.
Further, in 1984, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site in Sikhism, was stormed by the Indian military.
So, when a fellow Sikh is suddenly ambushed and killed by masked men on Canadian soil, the Sikh expatriate community in Canada is bound to be rattled—you never know who’s next on the “hit list”.
And when a community of 1.4 million people in your nation are worried for their safety and security, of course, it would be a problem for your country.
“Our citizens must be safe from extrajudicial killings of all kinds, most of all from foreign governments,” said Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party in Canada.
We’ll have to wait and see how the hostilities between the two nations eventually play out. With any hope, we won’t see tensions escalating further.
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