Australian spy chief says he has 'no reason to dispute' Canada's claim India linked to Sikh Canadian's murder

Officials have confirmed that shared Five Eyes intelligence informed Trudeau’s statement that there were ‘credible allegations’ linking India’s government to Nijjar’s murder

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OTTAWA — Australia’s spy chief says he has “no reason to dispute” Canada’s statement that there are credible allegations linking the Indian government to the murder of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.

“I’d have no reason to dispute what the Canadian government has said in this matter,” Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director general Mike Burgess said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this week.

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Burgess was speaking on the sidelines of a conference at Stanford University in California where the top spies from the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance — Canada, U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand — were meeting.

Canadian and U.S. officials have confirmed that shared intelligence from Five Eyes partners informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bombshell statement in Parliament in September that there were “credible allegations” the Indian government was linked to Nijjar’s murder in B.C. last June.

Nijjar was shot dead by two masked gunmen as he left a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C. He was the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and a leading supporter in the movement for a separate state for Sikhs in India called Khalistan. The Indian government had declared Nijjar a “fugitive terrorist.”

Trudeau has since remained quiet on the nature of the intelligence that led to his statement, though media outlets have reported that it is a combination of signals and human intelligence from both Canadian and Five Eyes sources.

Canadian Security and Intelligence Service director David Vigneault told reporters at the Stanford conference this week that the killing of a Canadian in Canada is “absolutely unacceptable” and partnerships like the Five Eyes alliance are critical in countering foreign interference.

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A photo of murdered Sikh independence leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen during a protest outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver .
A photo of murdered Sikh independence leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar is carried during a protest outside the Indian consulate in Vancouver on June 24, 2023. Photo by Jason Payne/Postmedia/File

CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam declined to say whether Vigneault discussed Trudeau’s allegations regarding India with conference attendees, including his Five Eyes counterparts, behind closed doors.

“We regularly meet and share information with our partners, which significantly contributes to protecting our respective countries’ safety and security,” Balsam said in a statement.

Australia’s spy chief told ABC Wednesday that Trudeau’s claim against India is a “serious allegation.”

“There’s no doubt any allegation of any country being accused of carrying out an execution of a citizen in that country, it’s a serious allegation, and something that we don’t do and something that nations should not do,” he told Australia’s public broadcaster.

India has dismissed the allegation as absurd and is locked in a growing diplomatic row with Canada. Both countries expelled a number of each other’s diplomats.

Tensions have since escalated and this week Canada had to recall 41 of its diplomats from India overnight after Narendra Modi’s government threatened to lift their diplomatic immunity.

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Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Trudeau said India’s threat was a concerning violation of international law and accused the Indian government of making life “unbelievably difficult for millions of people in both countries.”

“This is a violation of the Vienna Convention governing diplomacy. This is them choosing to contravene a very fundamental principle of international law and diplomacy. It is something that all countries in the world should be very worried about,” Trudeau said in Brampton, Ont.

“It also has very real impacts on the millions of people who travel back and forth between India. As students, as family members for weddings for businesses, for the growing trade ties between our countries,” he added. “They’re doing it by contravening a very basic principle of diplomacy.”

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Thursday, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters that Canada would not be replying in kind because doing so would also be a violation of international laws governing diplomacy.

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But Joly and Immigration Minister Marc Miller warned that the departure of dozens of Canadian diplomats from India would have a major impact on Canada’s ability to process visa and immigration requests in the country.

“This personnel reduction will have an impact in the short term and the medium term, I believe,” Miller said, noting that India is the top country for permanent and temporary residence applications to Canada.

Despite his department’s best efforts to redistribute the workload from the Indian embassy and consulates to other Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada offices, Miller said there will be service slowdowns.

“A portion of the work will still need to be done in (India). Consequently, delays in processing and servicing of requests are expected for requests from India,” he said.

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Originally posted 2023-10-20 20:02:38.