Canada's Trudeau accuses India of role in assassination of Canadian Sikh leader

Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat after going public with explosive 'credible allegations' that Indian agents helped kill a Canadian citizen

Justin Trudeau and Narendra Modi
Canada's Justin Trudeau and India's Narendra Modi at G20 summit
(Image credit: Press Information Bureau (PIB) / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament on Monday that "Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar," the leader of a Sikh temple in British Columbia. "Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," he said.

After Trudeau's announcement, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said Canada had expelled an Indian diplomat, Pavan Kumar Rai, whom she identified as the head of Indian intelligence collection in the country. India's Ministry of External Affairs called the Canadian accusations "absurd and motivated," noting that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi "completely rejected" similar allegations when Trudeau raised them with him on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit on Sept. 10.

Nijjar, 45, was killed by two masked gunmen on June 18 while sitting in his pickup truck near the temple. Police called the killing "targeted," and a criminal investigation is ongoing. Nijjar was an outspoken advocate for an independent Sikh homeland in northern India, Khalistan. Modi's Hindu nationalist government had labeled him a "terrorist" in 2020 for "exhorting seditionary and insurrectionary imputations and also attempting to create disharmony among different communities in India."

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India has outlawed the Khalistan movement, but it has some support in India's Punjab state and among Sikh communities in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Canada is home to about 770,000 Sikhs and roughly an equal number of other Canadians of Indian origin. Nijjar's murder rattled the Sikh community, which immediately pointed to India's involvement.

Nijjar is the third prominent Sikh figure to have died outside India under suspicious circumstances since May, BBC reported. Indian officials have warned in recent months about a potential resurgence of a Sikh separatist insurgency that roiled India in the 1980s, culminating in Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordering a deadly military raid on a fortified Golden Temple, one of the holiest Sikh sites; Gandhi's subsequent assassination by two Sikh bodyguards; and resulting riots that left thousands of Sikhs dead.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.