Skip to main content

Police arrest 3 Indian nationals in killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar

Share

Three people have been arrested and charged in the killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar – as authorities continue investigating potential connections to the Indian government.

Court documents show 28-year-old Karanpreet Singh, 22-year-old Kamalpreet Singh and 22-year-old Karan Brar are each facing one count first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in Nijjar's death.

All three are Indian nationals who were living in Edmonton when they were taken into custody Friday morning, authorities said.

Investigators believe the men were in Surrey, B.C., on June 18, 2023, the day 45-year-old Nijjar was gunned down outside his gurdwara in the city.

B.C. Gurdwaras Council spokesperson Moninder Singh said he and Nijjar's family were briefed by investigators in Surrey about the arrests, and Nijjar's children were "very emotional."

"At the moment, there is a bit of a sigh of relief in their father's murder," said Singh. "There's a bit of anger and frustration around why this had to happen in the first place, and then there are a lot of questions around India."

"Is this over?" he added. "How do we go back into our community and have this conversation around is this safe or is it not safe?"

Potential ties to India

Speaking at a news conference, RCMP Asst. Commissioner David Teboul, commander of the Federal Policing Program in the Pacific Region, stressed that the murder remains "very much under active investigation."

"There are separate and distinct investigations ongoing into these matters, certainly not limited to the involvement of the people arrested today, and these efforts include investigating connections to the government of India," Teboul said.

With charges now laid, authorities were tight-lipped about how their months-long investigation led them to the three suspects.

"With unequivocal commitment to the administration of justice, and with reverence to the upcoming judicial process on this matter, we are not able to make any comments about the nature of the evidence collected by police, nor can we speak about the motive behind the murder," Teboul said.

Friday's indictments allege the conspiracy unfolded in both Surrey and Edmonton between May 1, 2023 and the day of Nijjar's killing.

Authorities could not comment on the immigration status of the three men arrested, but said they arrived in Canada over the past five years and are not permanent residents.

'Others may have played a role'

Supt. Mandeep Mooker, the officer in charge of B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said police are also "aware that others may have played a role" in the murder.

"We remain dedicated to finding and arresting each one of these individuals," Mooker added.

Police acknowledged the update would leave many unanswered questions in Surrey's Sikh community, which was shaken by what some quickly feared was a political assassination.

As a vocal supporter of the Khalistan movement, which advocates for a separate Sikh homeland in India's Punjab province, Nijjar was a wanted man in India, where authorities labelled him a terrorist in 2020.

At the time of his death, he was organizing an unofficial referendum about Khalistan among the Sikh diaspora in B.C. with the organization Sikhs For Justice.

He was shot dead by masked gunmen outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, where he served as president.

Diplomatic crisis with India

The case sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and India after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed intelligence services were investigating information about a potential link to India's government.

Canada's public safety minister declined to comment further on the allegations Friday, telling reporters on Parliament Hill that such questions are best addressed by the police.

"I have full confidence in the security apparatus of the government of Canada and the work of the RCMP, and the work that the (Canadian) Security Intelligence Service does," Minister Dominic Leblanc said.

"I think the police operation that you see ongoing today confirms that the RCMP take these matters extremely seriously."

Conservative Party decries 'foreign interference'

In November, U.S. authorities unsealed an indictment alleging an Indian diplomat engaged in conspiracy to order the killing of a Sikh separatist in that country, pointing to a potentially wider campaign of assassinations targeting Sikhs outside India.

The plot was foiled, but American authorities said their investigation found evidence of plans to assassinate Canadians, including Nijjar.

The Conservative Party of Canada, in a statement following the arrests Friday, pointed a finger at the Trudeau government, calling Nijjar's murder an "unacceptable" instance of "foreign interference" in Canada.

"We wish the government was able to foil this plot and stop this murder from happening in the first place, as was the case in the United States," the statement said.

'Disbelief and anger' 

Asst. Commissioner Brian Edwards, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP detachment, praised the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara's executive for their assistance – and their patience – during the investigation into the murder, even as they were going through "intense grief and pain."

"Investigations in Canada are complex," Edwards said. "They're very, very onerous and they take time. As such, the support from those individuals, and the community at large, was essential in getting where we are today."

B.C. Premier David Eby expressed his gratitude to the investigators working on the case and said the province will support the legal process as criminal proceedings get underway.

"There is disbelief and anger in the community, in addition to the terrible loss being felt by Mr. Nijjar's family and loved ones," Eby said in a statement. "I hope that today's announcement of charges against three individuals is an important step towards justice for his family and accountability to the whole community."

With files from CTV News Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

The new airline rivalries: Air Canada vs. Porter, WestJet vs. Flair

In a country traditionally dominated by two national airlines, a new set of aviation rivalries has emerged. Porter is increasingly moving in on Air Canada's home turf of Central Canada as well as cross-country routes, while WestJet seeks to counter the threat of Flair Airlines in a shift from the decades-old industry dynamic of sparring between the two biggest carriers.

Stay Connected