Some members of B.C.’s Sikh community care calling for a federal investigation into the killing of a prominent temple leader.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, president of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara was shot and killed in the temple’s parking lot on the evening of June 18.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is leading the probe into what they have described as a “targeted” killing, but has to date not released any information on a possible motive.
Threatened Sikh activist questions lack of police communication
Members of the Sikh community have since launched an E-Petition calling on the federal government to “launch an investigation to get to the bottom of Nijjar’s murder,” including allegations the slaying may be connected to foreign interference.
“Nijjar was an upright, god fearing, law abiding and peaceful member of the Canadian Sikh community with no involvement in any criminal activity, he served his community with dedication and tirelessly as President of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara and Chief Coordinator of Canadian Chapter of Global Khalistan Referendum,” the petition states.
“Nijjar’s assassination has not only caused irreparable loss to the Sikh community but it has also raised serious concerns which warrant immediate and utmost attention of the Canadian Government at the highest level.”
Manpreet Singh is among those supporting the petition.
“There is fear in the community, they really want to know who (was) behind it,” he told Global News.
“He’s a great figure for the community … if he’s not safe here, then who is safe?”
Rally held nearly week after Surrey Gurdwara president’s killing
Gurdwara secretary Gurmeet Singh Toor said an investigation is necessary to get answers for the community.
He said Nijjar, who was a vocal supporter of a referendum for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan, was a target of character assassination and “fake news” from Indian authorities.
“From long time the Indian government has made so many allegations on him. And on his character, like he’s a terrorist,” he said.
“He was very vocal and well known (to) all the world’s Sikhs.”
Months after Nijjar travelled to the U.N. in June 2014, the Indian government issued an arrest warrant for him through Interpol’s National Central Bureau in New Delhi, describing him as a “mastermind/active member” of the Khalistan Tiger Force militant group in relation to a 2007 bombing.
Police reveal escape route of suspects in shooting of Surrey Sikh community leader
A second Interpol notice in 2016 also accused him of being the “mastermind and key conspirator of many terrorist acts in India.”
The Indian government has also claimed he was part of a conspiracy to murder a Hindu priest, and in July 2022 offered a reward equivalent to CAD$16,000 for his arrest.
Singh Toor said despite the attention of the Indian government, Nijjar continued to advocate for Khalistan, human rights and minority rights in his country of origin.
Nijjar had repeatedly professed his innocence to the terrorism allegations, including in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which he called the accusations “factually baseless and fabricated.” He had dmitted to supporting Sikh separatism, but denied involvement in any violent acts.
B.C. Amber Alert: Missing kids were found in Alberta
Canada exits FIFA Women’s World Cup after falling 4-0 to Australia
Prior to his death, Nijjar had reportedly expressed concerns about threats he was receiving, related to his political activism, criticizing the government of India and supporting Sikh separatism.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada has also asked for an investigation into whether India had a role in the killing.
Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal sponsored the E-Petition, something he said he would do for his constituents on any issues except those targeting the LGBTQ2 community or a woman’s right to an abortion.
Radio host Gurpreet Sing on fatal shooting of Sikh community leader
But he said he did feel a personal connection given that the incident happened at a Sikh temple.
“Its very close to my faith. It happened at the place of worship that I have faith in … this should not happen in any religious organization,” he said.
“I can tell you our government and our minister is very much concerned. Particularly, a killing happened in a place of worship … every Canadian, irrespective of what their religious background is, they should be able to worship their faith safely in their places of worship.”
Homicide investigators say the 45-year-old gurdwara president and plumber died of multiple gunshot wounds suffered while he was inside a vehicle in the temple’s parking lot.
Large gathering to honour slain Sikh community leader
Investigators believe he was attacked by two “heavier-set” and mask-clad men, who fled the scene on foot southbound on 122 Street, potentially to a waiting getaway vehicle.
The homicide team has declined to confirm or deny any threats against Nijjar prior to his death, but has said it would investigate the reports and liaise with intelligence and other police agencies as necessary.
The E-Petition has gathered close to 1,000 signatures so far, surpassing the 500 necessary for presentation to the House of Commons.
Once it closes on Aug. 3, the government will have 45 days to respond.
— with files from Stewart Bell and Elizabeth McSheffrey
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.