Foreign Interference report warns of meddling by Indian government

'Every Canadian has the fundamental right to live safely and free from discrimination and threats of violence in Canada,' said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Foreign Interference report warns of meddling by Indian government
The Canadian Press / Nathan Denette
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refrained from calling out the Indian government, following the arrest of three foreign nationals for the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist.

“The investigation remains ongoing, as does a separate and distinct investigation not limited to the involvement of the three people arrested,” he told reporters.

Karanpreet Singh, 28, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karan Brar, 22, were arrested and charged in the murder of Nijjar. They have resided in Canada for the past several years.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner David Teboul confirmed Friday their investigation into alleged connections with New Delhi, as it relates to Nijjar’s death, remains ongoing.

More arrests could be incoming following a cryptic message by Teboul, who acknowledged numerous cases remain open and are “certainly not limited to the involvement of the people arrested today.”

Nijjar, a Sikh leader and organizer with Sikhs for Justice, advocated for a non-binding referendum on establishing the Sikh state before his untimely passing. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have voted in the campaign across the western world to date.

Sikh leaders allege India’s spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has tried to counter pro-Khalistan rhetoric in the West for years.

The Foreign Interference Commission released its interim report last week on meddling by actors abroad. Though Canada's electoral integrity remained intact, foreign interference tarnished public confidence in Canadian democracy, said Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue.

Following 10 days of public hearings earlier this year, allegations of interference by India were among those investigated. Hogue did not detail specifics because her findings were based on classified documents.

The inquiry said New Delhi tried to disguise foreign meddling by using Canadian and Canadian-based proxies to cover up their tracks. 

At a rally last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government is willing to take action against threats abroad.

“This new India comes into your home to kill you,” he said on April 5. “My India does not send dossiers. We kill terrorists on their home turf.”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a close friend of Nijjar and organizer with Sikhs for Justice, was also targeted for assassination last June, reads an unsealed U.S. indictment.

Pannun urged Canadian politicians of “every stripe” to stand by the right of Canadian Sikhs to peacefully advocate for Khalistan.

“Every Canadian has the fundamental right to live safely and free from discrimination and threats of violence in Canada,” said Trudeau.

More evidence has emerged following the crass remarks by the prime minister in the Commons last fall.

In September, Trudeau accused the Indian government of plotting the murder of Njjar, a naturalized Canadian citizen. He did not present evidence to the effect.

New Delhi earlier suggested that Nijjar became “actively involved in operationalizing, networking, training and financing” members of the militant group Khalistan Tiger Force.

On May 31, New Democrat MPs sponsored a Commons motion to include all states suspected of foreign interference in the public inquiry. The motion passed but is non-binding on the federal government.

“Some Canadians fear for their lives,” according to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, “because of threats from foreign governments like India.”

“Their voices must be heard,” he said. “Many in our communities, fear of harassment, violence and retribution from foreign agents is too common.”

On Saturday, Trudeau acknowledged the Sikh community is feeling “uneasy and perhaps even frightened right now.”

Hogue’s mandate under the Inquiries Act states she is to “examine and assess interference by China, Russia and other foreign states or non-state actors” to confirm the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

“It’s not just China and Russia that we are talking about,” said Neil Bisson, a former senior intelligence officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. 

On January 24, Hogue requested federal documents into India’s alleged extrajudicial antics during the 2019 and 2021 elections. 

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc earlier said an investigation into foreign interference would exclude India.

“Should India be added to the inquiry into foreign interference?” asked a reporter. He replied: “We don't need to add India.”

Minister LeBlanc clarified that Nijjar’s shooting was an active police matter, and that Hogue should “follow the evidence” on alleged interference.

Bisson supported the move, owing to the government of India’s stance on Sikh separatism and Khalistan.

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