Bob Rae says he 'took comfort' after Indian diplomat approached him to discuss Nijjar case

Bob Rae, ambassador and permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations, speaks to reporters in New York on Friday, April 28, 2023.  (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)
Bob Rae, ambassador and permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations, speaks to reporters in New York on Friday, April 28, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae says his Indian counterpart pulled him aside Tuesday to discuss the case of Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are "credible allegations" linking the Indian government to his death.

Rae told CBC News India's Permanent Representative at the UN Ruchira Kamboj approached him after he addressed the UN Tuesday and thanked him.

"She pulled me aside to say it's important that we keep working together as the governments try to work out the situation that has to be worked on," he said.

"I took some comfort from that. I think that there is room for diplomacy and I think we're going to see more room as we go forward."

Nijjar, a Sikh activist in British Columbia, was gunned down outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., on June 18.

Protesters chant outside of the Consulate General of India office during a protest for the recent shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver on Saturday, June 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns
Protesters chant outside of the Consulate General of India office during a protest for the recent shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver on Saturday, June 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

Protesters chant outside of the Consulate General of India office in response to the shooting death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver on Saturday, June 24, 2023. (Ethan Cairns/The Canadian Press)

He was a well-known member of the movement advocating for the creation of an independent Sikh state in India's Punjab. India's government labelled Nijjar a terrorist but has denied any involvement in his killing.

"I think it is important for people to know that every effort has to be made to find an approach that will deal with the problem and deal with the issue that we've raised, because it is extremely important," said Rae, adding Canadians need "to understand that there's a lot of connecting that we need to do and a lot of mutual respect that we need to achieve in order to get to a better place."

On Tuesday, India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said his government has told Canada it's open to looking into any specific information it has on Nijjar's death.

"One, we told the Canadians that this is not the government of India's policy," Jaishankar said, speaking at a Council on Foreign Relations event. "Two, we told the Canadians ... that look, if you have something specific, if you have something relevant, you know, let us know — we are open to looking at it."

Trudeau said last week that "Canada shared the credible allegations [with India] … many weeks ago."

Sources have told CBC that the Canadian government has amassed both human and signals intelligence in the months-long investigation. That intelligence includes communications involving Indian officials themselves, including Indian diplomats present in Canada, the sources said.

The Washington Post reported Monday that it had reviewed a 90-second video that shows at least six men and two getaway cars were involved in Nijjar's killing — suggesting a larger operation than previously reported.

CBC News has not seen the video and cannot independently verify its contents.

Singh says intelligence 'very credible' after briefing

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh backed the prime minister up on Tuesday after he received an intelligence briefing from Trudeau's national security adviser, Jody Thomas.

"I can confirm what the prime minister has shared publicly — that there is clear intelligence that Canada has that lays out the following case, that a Canadian citizen was killed on Canadian soil and a foreign government was involved," Singh told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.

"That intelligence is something that I think is very credible."

Singh told reporters he was able to request a briefing on the matter because he was granted top-secret security clearance when he reviewed the foreign interference materials prepared by former special rapporteur David Johnston.  The former governor general had been tasked with investigating allegations of foreign election interference earlier this year and has since resigned.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who rejected the offer to get the clearance needed to review the top-secret documents behind Johnston's report, said he was offered a briefing similar to one B.C. Premier David Eby received last week on the matter.

Eby has said his briefings so far have been limited to information publicly available.

The Conservative leader has called on Trudeau to "come clean" about the evidence behind the allegation against India. Poilievre told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't believe a briefing would offer "necessary information" and he would be barred from talking about its contents.

Trudeaus's bombshell statement last week has worsened the already rocky relationship between Canada and India.

Last week, Canada expelled Pavan Kumar Rai — who was the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's foreign intelligence agency, in Canada — and India retaliated by expelling a Canadian diplomat.

India's visa processing centre in Canada has also suspended services.