Mixed feelings in Fort St. John after Trudeau’s announcement on gurdwara president's killing
The man who was fatally shot outside a Surrey temple has been identified as the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar.(Facebook/ BC Sikhs)
FORT ST. JOHN -- Fort St. John and B.C.’s Sikh community say they have “mixed feelings” about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that the Indian government may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier this year.
Moninder Singh, spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwaras Council, considered Trudeau’s remarks an overdue acknowledgment of concerns his community has been raising for decades about Indian interference in Canadian affairs.
“It’s something that should have been done a long time ago. The community's been after this issue for over 40 years,” Singh said, speaking outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey on Monday.
“It is very unfortunate that it took the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on this property a few hundred feet away to actually bring this about,” he continued.
Nijjar, the gurdwara’s president, was gunned down in his vehicle in the parking lot on June 18.
Speaking to the House of Commons earlier in the day, Trudeau said national security agencies are investigating “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and Nijjar’s killing.
"Canada is a rule of law country, the protection of our citizens in defence of our sovereignty are fundamental. Our top priorities have therefore been one, that our law enforcement and security agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians. And two, that all steps be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account,” Trudeau said.
Singh said Canada’s acknowledgement that India was potentially an “actual actor” in the killing is a good first step, but “until we actually see people behind bars” the community will remain skeptical as to whether appropriate action will be taken.
Homicide investigators have not made any arrests for his slaying or named a motive. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said there are three suspects in the murder: two “heavy-set men wearing face coverings” who were seen fleeing the scene on foot, and a third person waiting in a getaway car parked a few blocks away.
The incident has also sparked conversations across the Peace Region, especially in Fort St. John where over a thousand South Asians reside.
"That is sad for sure that he was killed at the Gurudwara. With cases like this without evidence or full disclosure or anybody brought to justice, it's hard to be able to make an intelligent statement on it because you don't know the truth of what happened or what the actual truth is until there's people brought to justice," says Fort St. John Resident Paul Singh.
Singh explains that the incident leaves many questions unanswered. The B.C. Gurdwaras Council agrees, saying the lack of answers around Nijjar’s murder “doesn’t bode well” in the community and it leaves them with a “reluctance for people to actually trust” the justice system.
“A public inquiry into India's interference in this country needs to happen immediately. And we've been saying that since before Hardeep’s death,” the council spokesperson said.
He added that peaceful protests at consulates and embassies across Canada are being planned for Sept. 25 to call for just that.
In a statement Monday, Premier David Eby said he was “deeply disturbed and angered” by the allegations of foreign interference he received a briefing from Canada’s spy agency CSIS that afternoon.
“Canadians across the country must be safe from the interference of foreign governments, including being targeted for threats or physical harm, including murder,” he wrote. "Our democracy depends on it.”
Eby said he is calling on the federal government to share all information related to “any known ongoing foreign interference and transnational organized crime threats” with provincial officials.
"I join with those in the Sikh and Punjabi community, and the broader province, demanding justice and answers. Our government will fully and enthusiastically support any federal efforts to ensure those responsible are held personally accountable,” he said.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Tom Yun and Kaija Jussinoja and The Canadian Press