The premier of Canada’s British Columbia province, where Sikh extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was killed, has said he was not taken into the loop on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s explosive allegations against India. He learned about the claims only one hour before they entered the public domain.
Premier David Eby was responding to questions during a media question-and-answer session after addressing local politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver. He said he believes the federal government is holding back information that could help his province protect its residents with connections to India from foreign interference.
He also said that he suspects the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is holding back information about their investigation into Nijjar’s killing. Eby added that the information he has received from the Canadian government is open source and available on the internet. “The government has been sharing some, but it’s not enough, and we need more,” he said.
He said he is not surprised at the Prime Minister’s audacious allegations against India, a close ally and a significant trading partner. He said that Trudeau is prone to make such claims without any evidence. He recalled that when he was the leader of the provincial NDP party, he made similar allegations about specific individuals having nefarious intentions in North America.
The British Columbia premier is expected to meet with Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar soon. This is to discuss the situation after India froze all Canadian visa services and told Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic staffing in Delhi. He referred to protests by Khalistan supporters recently that prompted the Canadian government to cancel some high-profile events in Delhi.
Asked about the protests, he said the Canadian government is not looking to provoke anyone. He added that people from all origins can express their opinions, including criticizing the Indian government.
In the past, India has accused Ottawa of harboring separatists. Still, it has maintained that all groups are free to voice their political opinions — as long as they don’t use violence. This spring, tensions rose after posters surfaced in Canada that called for India to be treated as a murderer. Trudeau said on Monday that he is concerned about interference by any country, including India. But he has also maintained that Canada will defend freedom of speech. Its ambassador to India was ordered to cut short his stay in the country after the allegations, and some of its diplomats have been asked to leave their posts. The two countries are considered close trade partners, but the diplomatic row has soured their relations. The dispute threatens to hurt both nations’ economies. In a sign of discontent, several Indian business leaders have announced plans to scale back investment in Canada. Indian investors have already cut their holdings in some companies, including Vodafone, that operate in the country.