Leaders from B.C.’s Sikh community say they have “mixed feelings” about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that the Indian government may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier this year.
Moninder Singh, spokesperson for the BC Gurdwaras Council, considered Trudeau’s remarks an overdue acknowledgment of concerns his community has been raising for decades about Indian foreign interference in Canada.
“It’s something that should have been done a long time ago. The community’s been after this issue for over 40 years,” Singh said, speaking outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey on Monday.
“It is very unfortunate that it took the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on this property a few hundred feet away to actually bring this about,” he continued.
Nijjar, the gurdwara’s president, was gunned down in his vehicle in the parking lot on June 18.
Speaking to the House of Commons earlier in the day, Trudeau said national security agencies are investigating “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and Nijjar’s killing.
“Canada is a rule of law country, the protection of our citizens in defence of our sovereignty are fundamental. Our top priorities have therefore been one, that our law enforcement and security agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians. And two, that all steps be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account,” Trudeau said.
Singh said Canada’s acknowledgement that India was potentially an “actual actor” in the killing is a good first step, but “until we actually see people behind bars” the community will remain skeptical as to whether appropriate action will be taken.
Homicide investigators have not made any arrests in relation to his slaying, or named a motive. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said there are three suspects in the murder: two “heavy-set men wearing face coverings” who were seen fleeing the scene on foot, and a third person waiting in a getaway car parked a few blocks away.
Singh said the lack of answers around Nijjar’s murder “doesn’t bode well” in the community and it leaves them with a “reluctance for people to actually trust” the justice system.
“When Hardeep was being warned a year in advance that (his) life was at risk, but nothing was done to actually protect him in any which way,” he said. “What can we actually expect from them, that if India is an actor here, then what can the police do for us? And we don’t have an answer for that.”
“A public inquiry into India’s interference in this country needs to happen immediately. And we’ve been saying that since before Hardeep’s death,” Singh said.
He added that peaceful protests at consulates and embassies across Canada are being planned for Sept. 25 to call for just that.
“We need to heal, but at the same time, we need to kind of get together to actually push forward. So the healing will take place within the activism for us and that’s always been the case for our people.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Tom Yun and The Canadian Press