Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that “credible allegations” may tie India to the assassination of a Sikh leader in the country.
Trudeau addressed the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian who was a staunch supporter of the creation of a separate Sikh state in Punjab, India, called Khalistan.
In a speech to lawmakers in the Canadian House of Commons, Trudeau said that “any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
Niijar was shot dead by two masked gunmen in June outside a Sikh Gurudwara in Surrey, British Columbia.
The Canadian leader said he had informed the leaders of the opposition directly about the allegations as well.
“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.
Trudeau added that the incident is “contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”
He added that he had shared his concerns over the allegations “directly” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week at the G20 Summit in New Delhi and added that the top priority is that “all steps be taken” to hold the perpetrators of this murder to account.
“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau added that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
He added that he hoped the Indian government would “cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled from the country as well in a press conference on Monday.
“The allegations that a representative of a foreign government may have been involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen, here, in Canada, on Canadian soil is not only troubling but it is completely unacceptable,” Joly added.
Nijjar had previously been a “terrorist” by the Indian government and accused of leading a militant separatist group.
The Khalistan movement, outlawed in India, is a key focus of the Indian government. Several groups associated with the Khalistani movement have been designated as “terrorist organizations” in the country.
However, it has support among some segments of the Sikh community in Canada, Britain and Australia, who have called for the creation of a separate Sikh state.
Tensions ratcheted up earlier this year after separatist leader Amritpal Singh escaped from Indian authorities, sparking a massive manhunt. He was caught weeks later in the Punjab after almost a month on the run.
The Indian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
A statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs from Sep. 10 said that Modi had expressed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” with Trudeau during their meeting at the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
The statement said there are elements in Canada “promoting secessionism” and “inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement that India rejects the statement made to the Canadian Parliament by Trudeau.
“Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” Bagchi said.
The statement added that India is a “democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”
It further said that the “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 Indian government’s statement further blasted Canadian politicians for “openly expressed sympathy for such elements” that “remains a matter of deep concern.”
According to the statement, India rejected any attempts to connect the country to the allegations made by Trudeau.
Relations between the two countries have been frosty and India further accused Canada and said that “The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organized crime is not new.”
Updated at 11:10 pm.