A suitably solemn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons on Monday to fill in the country, a bit, on what government officials had been talking about behind closed doors for weeks: India may be responsible for the June slaying of a Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil.
“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Mr. Trudeau said.
And that has been that: no elaboration on the provenance of those credible allegations, and no explanation of that potential link. Canadians (including the opposition parties) remain in the dark about what Ottawa believes led to Mr. Nijjar’s murder, beyond the supposition that his slaying is connected to his activities in support of the Khalistan separatism movement that is vehemently opposed by the Indian government.
Ottawa’s belief that India played a role in Mr. Nijjar‘s shooting in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., clearly goes much further than mere suspicion. The government has already taken significant action. Mr. Trudeau said he raised the matter directly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at last week’s G20 meeting. Canada also conveyed its concerns to senior Indian intelligence officials. Our allies, including the United States, Britain and Australia, have been briefed. Canada has expelled a senior Indian diplomat, frozen trade talks with India and postponed a federal trade mission.
Yet Mr. Trudeau has not spelled out to the nation exactly what has been uncovered that compelled the government to take those steps, and to ignite a serious – perhaps enduring – diplomatic crisis with India. The Prime Minister needs to lay out his case, immediately, to bolster support for the government’s actions both at home and abroad.
The opposition parties have rightly echoed the government’s condemnation of the notion of an assassination of a Canadian citizen, but they have done so in an information vacuum. That vacuum must be filled.
More than that, Canadians deserve clarity on such an important matter, particularly given the potential for significant diplomatic and economic repercussions.
But what of the national security imperative to protect sources and methods? Those concerns have been raised as a shield, time and again, in the debate over China’s attempt to meddle in Canada’s elections. They remain, for the most part, a self-serving justification for officials to retain control over information that belongs in the public sphere.
Some particulars of intelligence-gathering techniques may need to be held back from public view. Everything else must be brought to light, and not just because Canadians deserve clarity. Realpolitik will be served as well.
To date, Ottawa’s efforts to round up support from its closest allies have been unsuccessful. The Liberals have denied reports that our allies refused Canada’s request to condemn India over Mr. Nijjar’s killing. Whatever parsing of language allows for that statement, the reality is this: No country has.
The United States limited itself to saying it was “deeply concerned.” U.S. President Joe Biden, rather than condemn India in his Tuesday speech to the United Nations, instead lauded co-operation with that country.
Britain said Canada’s concerns were not reason enough to halt its own trade discussions with India. Australia, at least, said it had spoken to senior officials in India.
The muted response by Canada’s closest allies reflects the geopolitical reality that India is being courted as a counterbalance to the growing political and military threat posed by China. That reality will not be easily overcome.
Only compelling evidence of India’s involvement in Mr. Nijjar’s killing holds the possibility of prodding our allies into action. And only that broader condemnation of India could exert enough pressure on the Modi government to co-operate with Canada’s inquiries. So far, the Modi government has felt free to contemptuously dismiss Canada’s appeals, betting that the rest of the West will prioritize security concerns.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau said Canada had “fully shared with the government of India the seriousness and depth of our preoccupations and, indeed, conclusions.”
Canadians, too, deserve no less.