'Our safety in Canada is at stake': Windsor Sikh community calls for more action from feds in killing of B.C. Sikh leader

Published Sept. 19, 2023 10:10 a.m. ET

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Windsor’s Sikh community is applauding the Canadian government’s move to call out India on "credible allegations" that the "agents of the government of India" were involved in the killing of prominent Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in B.C. in June, but want to see more action.

"Over the past number of weeks, 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," Trudeau said, addressing the House of Commons about an "extremely serious matter," after informing the opposition party leaders.

The prime minister said he's urging the Indian government to cooperate with Canada in the investigation into Nijjar's death and said he expects India to "reiterate that its position on extra-judicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally in line with international law."

“I think it's really important for us to understand that it's a clear attack on Sikh dissidents,” said Triman Singh Kandola, a Sikh youth activist in Windsor, who says there has been historical repression of Sikh activists dating back to the 1980s, “which has resulted in the erasure of democratic political space for Sikh political dissent.”

Nijjar, who was the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, had been a long-time advocate of the Khalistan movement, which calls for an independent homeland for Sikhs in India's Punjab region. The Sikh leader was gunned out outside the temple in Surrey, B.C., on June 18.

Nijjar's death had sparked protests from the Sikh community across Canada, many accusing the Indian government of orchestrating the killing and even going as far as holding posters that refer to Indian diplomats as "killers."

While the Sikh community is grateful for the Canadian government’s actions taken to address the matter, a local Sikh community leader believes more needs to be done.

“This is a good step but this is not enough. Sikhs are very deeply concerned about their safety,” said Harjinder Singh Kandola, the former president of the Gurdwara Khalsa Parkash of Windsor.

He was born and raised in India and said many Sikh people fled India for a place to practice their beliefs freely and to promote their idea of sovereignty and the independent state of Khalistan, something they felt they couldn’t do in India.

“If this thing can happen in Canada, this is not good,” said Kandola. “So we call on the Canadian government for an immediate action for the identification and prosecution of those who are directly involved.”

The Sikh community wants those involved to be identified and persecuted, more protection and enhanced measures to keep foreign actors and with intelligence gathering capabilities out of Canada.

“Canada should be ensuring the safety of Canadian citizens on Canadian soil,” said Triman Singh Kandola.

Sikhs also wants a public inquiry to examine and disclose the extent of threats posed by India in Canada and the failure of Canadian security agencies.

“We believe that there everyone should be living without fear, without fear of genocide without fear of being murdered,” he said. “And, and that's why it's so important for Canada to actually uphold Charter Rights of Sikhs in Canada.”

Nijjar also has local ties. Members of his wife’s family currently reside in Windsor. Both Triman and Harjinder Singh Kandola remember Nijjar as a smart man who was passionate about Sikh sovereignty.

“Canada has a reputation of being a country where you can freely express yourself. So it's very important for Canada to uphold that and uphold its reputation within the world,” said Triman Singh Kandola.

“Our safety in Canada is at stake,” said Harjinder Singh Kandola. “And we want Canadian government to take it on as top priority.”

-- With files from Tom Yun, CTVNews.ca writer

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