Indian diplomat has left Canada in wake of allegations surrounding Sikh activist's death

The Indian flag flies next to the High Commission of India in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The Indian flag flies next to the High Commission of India in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A diplomat who was ordered out of Canada in the wake of allegations about the killing of a Canadian Sikh activist has left the country, says a senior government official.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons that Canada has "credible intelligence" linking agents of the Indian government to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., on June 18.

Following that stunning announcement, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she had ordered the expulsion of "a senior Indian diplomat."

Pavan Kumar Rai — who was the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's foreign intelligence agency, in Canada — left the country on Thursday, a government official told CBC News.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, centre, and Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, right, speak to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadian authorities had intelligence that India was responsible for the June fatal shooting of a prominent Sikh leader in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, centre, and Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, right, speak to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023 after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canadian authorities had intelligence linking India's government to the fatal shooting in June of a prominent Sikh leader in Surrey, B.C. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

In a tit-for-tat response, India announced it had given a Canadian diplomat five days' notice to leave the country. It's not clear if that diplomat has left India.

The allegations have rocked Canada's allies and was even raised during a joint press conference between Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday.

Asked to describe the evidence Ottawa has shown the India government, Trudeau said "Canada shared the credible allegations … many weeks ago."

"We are there to work constructively with India and we hope that they engage with us so that we can get to the bottom of this," he said.

Trudeau has said he raised the matter with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they met during the G20 summit less than two weeks ago.

India suspends Visa services for all categories of visas for Canadian nationals, Indian government.
India suspends Visa services for all categories of visas for Canadian nationals, Indian government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he raised the killing of a Canadian Sikh activist with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they met during the G20 summit less than two weeks ago. (CBC)

As first reported by CBC News, Canadian officials went to India on several occasions seeking co-operation in the investigation into Nijjar's death.

Canada's National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas was in India over four days in mid-August.

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 Canadian government has not released its evidence and has suggested it could emerge during an eventual legal process.

Canadian sources say that, when pressed behind closed doors, no Indian official has denied the bombshell allegation at the core of this case — that there is evidence to suggest Indian government involvement in the assassination of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.

The Indian government has fumed at Canada for — in its view — sheltering Sikh separatists, including Nijjar, whom it called a terrorist.

The growing feud escalated Thursday when India stopped processing visitor visas in Canada.

Canada is weighing retaliation but has made no decision yet, said government sources in Ottawa. Trudeau dodged a question about suspending Indian visa applications Thursday.