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Trudeau praises Canada as a ‘rule of law state’ after detaining three Indians in Nijjar murder case

Toronto: Canada is a “rule of law state” with a strong and independent legal system and a fundamental commitment to protecting its citizens, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, a day after three Indian nationals were charged with the murder of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia on June 18, 2023. Karan Brar, 22, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karanpreet Singh, 28, all Indian nationals living in Edmonton, were charged Friday with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

“This is important because Canada is a rule of law country with a strong and independent legal system, as well as a fundamental commitment to the protection of all its citizens,” Trudeau said of the arrests Saturday at a gala in Toronto celebrating Sikh heritage and culture.

“As the RCMP stated, the investigation remains ongoing, as well as a separate and distinct investigation that is not limited to the involvement of the three people arrested yesterday,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) quoted Trudeau as saying.

He said many in Canada’s Sikh community feel unsafe following Nijjar’s killing, adding: “Every Canadian has the fundamental right to live safely and free from discrimination and threats of violence in Canada.”

Ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Trudeau’s allegations in September last year about the “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of 45-year-old Nijjar, a separatist from Khalistan. India has dismissed Trudeau’s allegations as ‘absurd’ and ‘motivated’. The presence of Sikh separatist groups in Canada has long frustrated India, which had labeled Nijjar a “terrorist.”

After three Indian nationals were arrested in connection with the killing, police in Canada said they had cooperated with US law enforcement agencies, without providing additional details.

Police suggested more arrests may follow. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Deputy Commissioner David Teboul, the force’s commander for the Pacific region, said Friday he would not comment on the alleged links between the three arrested men and Indian officials , but noted that the force is “exploring connections to the government of India.”

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday said that what is happening in poll-driven Canada over Nijjar’s killing is largely due to their internal politics and has nothing to do with India. He said a section of the pro-Khalistan population is using Canadian democracy, creating a lobby and has become a vote bank.

Canada’s ruling party does not have a majority in parliament and some parties depend on pro-Khalistan leaders, he said. “We have convinced them several times not to give such people visas, legitimacy or political space, which causes problems for them (Canada), for us and also for our relationship,” Jaishankar said.