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A call for protection of Canadian Sikhs

The appeal comes from the World Sikh Organization of Canada in the wake of prime minister’s comments on murder of Guru Nanak Gurdwara president
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, president of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, was shot and killed in his truck in the temple parking lot. File photos:

The World Sikh Organization of Canada has called for “immediate protection” for Canadian Sikhs who “face a threat from India and its agents” after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed there are “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and the June 18 killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The 45-year-old Guru Nanak Gurdwara president, an ardent supporter of setting up an independent Sikh nation in India called Khalistan, was killed in the parking lot of the temple in the 7000-block of Scott Road. Police have yet to publicly identify a suspect or reply to a request for comment on Trudeau’s revelation.

World Sikh Organization of Canada president Tejinder Singh Sidhu said the significance of Trudeau’s comments “cannot be understated for Sikhs.”

“Today, the prime minister of Canada has publicly said what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades – India actively targets Sikhs in Canada,” Sidhu said. “It should now be clear to all Canadians that the government of India is a terrorist state that has brazenly engaged in extrajudicial killings not only on its own soil, but also on Canadian soil.”

Sidhu said India cannot be allowed to disregard the rule of law and the sovereignty of foreign states.

“The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and other Sikh activists were terrorist acts that must be condemned by the international community,” Sidhu said. “Those responsible for these killings must be immediately brought to justice. India should honour its international obligations and cooperate with the government of Canada in investigating these matters.”

Meanwhile, the government of India said Trudeau’s claim is “absurd.”

“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian prime minister to our prime minister and were completely rejected,” the Indian government’s statement reads, referencing Trudeau’s recent trip to India for the G20 summit.

“We reject any attempts to connect government of India to such developments. We urge the government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil,” the statement reads. “Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organized crime is not new,” it charges.

Sukh Dhaliwal, Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, said Canada is a “rule of law” country and protecting its citizens and defending its sovereignty is of paramount importance. “We’ve got to make sure that we protect that,” he said.

Asked what kind of stick Canada has if Indian government agents were indeed involved in Nijjar’s murder, Dhaliwal said Trudeau has asked the Indian government to “do every effort to cooperate with Canadian agencies.”

“India might be a major power, but when it comes to the protection of Canadian citizens, we cannot leave any stone unturned. We will do everything possible to protect the Canadians and our sovereignty and that’s what we will continue to do. I know the community will be feeling very angry and frightened right now,” Dhaliwal said. “I think it’s good to make an appeal that we all remain calm and steadfast in our commitment and make sure that the rule of law brings the justice out — and that’s all I would like to say.”

Premier David Eby said he too received a briefing from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service on the allegations.

“I am deeply disturbed and angered by this information. Canadians across the country must be safe from the interference of foreign governments, including being targeted for threats or physical harm, including murder,” Eby said. “Our democracy depends on it.”

He said in light of the allegations his provincial government will “enhance protection” for British Columbians “against the violence or threats of state actors.

“I call, yet again, on the federal government to share all relevant information related to any known ongoing foreign interference and transnational organized crime threats with our provincial authorities and our government, so we may act in co-ordination and protect those at risk.”

As the investigation continues, he added, he asks “those who are rightly angry to support justice and accountability through our formal legal systems. It is what makes us strong and is what distinguishes us from those who would act illegally to advance their own ends through threats, assassinations and attacks.

“We will win and there will be justice, because it must be so to protect what is best about the province we love,” Eby said.