One day after explosive allegation, Trudeau says he's not trying to 'provoke' India
Canadian Sikh leader was killed in B.C. in June
One day after accusing the Indian government of playing a role in the brazen shooting of a Canadian Sikh leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he isn't trying to "provoke" the South Asian country.
"We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them," Trudeau told reporters Tuesday, before a cabinet meeting.
"The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that."
On Monday, Trudeau made an unprecedented declaration in the House of Commons, accusing agents of the Indian government of helping to kill Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., on June 18.
"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 Monday.
Nijjar, a supporter of a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state, had been branded a "terrorist" by the Indian government and accused of leading a militant separatist group — something his supporters have denied.
Mukhbir Singh of the World Sikh Organization said members of his community were warned by officials that they were at risk.
"There have been a number of cases where officials have warned them that there was a threat to their life," he told a news conference Tuesday.
"We are asking for the government of Canada to provide protection for them."
Stephen Brown, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said all Canadians should be appalled.
"In Canada, if you cannot have an opinion about another foreign government without having to worry about walking outside and worrying if there will be a foreign agent to gun you down in the street, what is going on?" he said during the same news conference.
Tensions between the two countries have been terse, and flared after Trudeau's announcement.
On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she had ordered the expulsion of "a senior Indian diplomat."
Joly's office said that diplomat is Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's foreign intelligence agency, in Canada.
In a tit-for-tat response, India announced it had expelled a Canadian diplomat, with five days' notice to leave the country.
"The decision reflects the government of India's growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities," India's Foreign Ministry said in a Tuesday statement.
Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada will remain "calm."
"We're going to remain grounded in our democratic principles and values, we're going to follow the evidence," he said. "But Canadians have a right to know and need to know when things are going on like this. And that's why we made the decision to [reveal] this."
On the timing of the announcement, the prime minister said Canada's intelligence agencies have been working on their analysis over the summer and he wanted to first alert allies.
A senior government source told CBC News on Monday that Trudeau briefed the leaders of some of Canada's closest allies about the case, including U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it has been in contact with Canada on the issue.
"We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by PM Trudeau yesterday," said the spokesperson. "It is critical that Canada's investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice."
Poilievre calls for more evidence
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called on Trudeau to release more information about the case.
"The prime minister needs to come clean with all the facts. We need to know all of the evidence possible so that Canadians can make judgments on it," he said Tuesday, adding that Trudeau didn't tell him any more information in private than what was announced publicly.
When asked if India should face sanctions, Poilievre said he would need to see more evidence.
"I do find it interesting that [Trudeau] knew about vast foreign interference by Beijing for many years, at the same time as Beijing kept two Canadian citizens hostage, and he said nothing and he did nothing," Poilievre added.
"Just very interesting that was the approach he took."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters Tuesday that he wants the justice system to run its course and weigh any evidence intelligence agencies have.
"Right now we're faced with very serious allegations and there are steps that need to happen," Singh said.
The House of Commons agreed unanimously to hold a special "take-note" debate about the allegations on Tuesday night. Such a debate allows MPs to make their views known on a particular issue but doesn't include a vote.
With files from Alexander Panetta and J.P. Tasker