In an unsettling and unprecedented moment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to the floor of the House of Commons to deliver a disconcerting declaration.
“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,” he said.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It contradicts the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves,” he added.
That citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar was known to the Indian security agencies and was alleged to be a Khalistan separatist and terrorist. The Indian government provided credible evidence of his involvement to Interpol, and a Red Corner Notice was issued on 14 November 2014. Believe it or not, he was granted Canadian citizenship by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government even when his immigration file had numerous red flags that indeed would have disqualified him. And that is why the Conservative leader of the opposition got up in the House in full support of the government. Pierre Poilievre has asked for further evidence and proof in public to back the PM’s claim.
Against this backdrop, Surrey in British Columbia, the home of the most prominent Sikh diaspora community outside India, has witnessed a violent gang war for decades. In the past three years alone, there have been over two dozen gang-related murders. This piece of information should not be overlooked. Sources have reason to believe that new revelations will emerge regarding the death of Nijjar. Was it merely a rival turf war or something larger, as Canada’s PM has suggested?
Naturally, Trudeau’s revelation sent shockwaves throughout global capitals. The Narendra Modi government denied its involvement, dismissing the allegations as absurd. This situation has raised questions about Western democracies’ diplomatic missions, especially following a successful G20 Summit hosted by Prime Minister Modi. Both Canada and the world view India as an essential ally in combating the rising influence and power of the Chinese Communist Party in Asia and beyond.
As expected, Canada and India took swift actions in retaliation, including expelling diplomats from both countries.
Furthermore, on Thursday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs suspended the visa application process for Canadian citizens due to security concerns. Individuals linked to the Khalistan separatist movement have reportedly threatened its consular staff.
Regardless of the circumstances, why did the Canadian Prime Minister rise in parliament in the midst of an ongoing murder investigation to call out a foreign government? A former police veteran suggested Trudeau was attempting to divert attention, a sentiment I and others share. This is where the story gets genuinely intriguing.
Amid these events, Trudeau’s political standing has declined in recent months, tainted by economic challenges and allegations of foreign election interference from China in the 2019 and 2021 elections. Sam Cooper, a renowned author and investigative journalist, and Steve Chase and Bob Fife of the Globe and Mail released explosive stories in February and March of this year. This led to the resignation of Liberal Caucus member Han Dong, now sitting as an independent, who was tied to the Chinese consulate and the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front in Canada.
Canada has been largely inactive in combatting the Khalistan separatist elements that have orchestrated and executed murders in both Canada and India since the 1980s. The Indian government has been voicing its concerns for decades to little avail. Moreover, Canada has turned a blind eye to the infiltration and espionage activities of the Chinese government while failing to address the organized crime and extensive money laundering connected to gangs, foreign agents, and transnational organized crime. The perception of Canada as a sanctuary for individuals deemed threats to India’s national security is well-founded.
Yet, in this chaos, who genuinely benefits? Is it Trudeau, China, or perhaps both?
The Liberals can now present a narrative to the public and pose the question: Which is a more significant threat to our sovereignty and security? Standard foreign election interference or an alleged assassination on our soil by another country? The answer will define the Trudeau government’s current political strategy and determine our future diplomatic relationship with India. Canada is home to 770,000 Sikhs and just over 1.4 million people who identify as of Indian origin, meaning a significant number of votes are at stake.
What’s evident is that the Prime Minister has successfully shifted the public discourse. By doing so, his political strategy serves dual purposes. He now seems assertive against foreign interference to a Canadian public that perceived his prior shortcomings on addressing foreign interference as an Achilles heel. Meanwhile, Beijing likely welcomes the increased scrutiny on India’s alleged foreign operations in Canada, deflecting attention from China’s massive United Front operations inside Canada.
I anticipate the next poll numbers will reveal an uptick in the Liberal Party’s popularity, but at what cost?
Only in Canada, you say? Pity.
Dean Baxendale is a publisher, writer and human rights advocate. He is the CEO of Optimum Publishing and the China Democracy Fund and a contributor to The Sunday Guardian.