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Quebec Justice Marie-Josée Hogue speaks at the Université de Sherbrooke on Sept. 6, 2022.Handout

The commissioner of the foreign-interference inquiry has asked for documents relating to the government of India’s possible meddling in the past two federal elections.

Quebec Justice Marie Josée Hogue, who heads the inquiry, announced Wednesday that she had requested information and documents from the federal government involving any alleged interference by India during the 2019 and 2021 elections. The move comes days before public hearings begin on Monday.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had pushed for the inquiry to delve into the possibility that India may have acted in a similar manner as Beijing in seeking to influence the outcome of elections in certain ridings with large diaspora communities.

Neil Bisson, a former senior intelligence officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said it makes sense for the inquiry to look at what other countries, including India, have been doing behind the scenes to influence their diaspora communities in Canada.

“It’s not just China and Russia that we are talking about,” said Mr. Bisson, director of the Global Intelligence Knowledge Network.

“If you take a look at the Indian government not wanting Canada to become an area where Sikh separatists can essentially look at organizing, funding and rallying, then it makes sense that they would try to have some influence on those individuals who are taking part in elections, those individuals being elected to those positions.”

The request by the foreign-interference inquiry could further damage relations between the Canadian government and India.

The Indian High Commission was not immediately available for comment.

In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the government of India of being behind the brazen shooting of Sikh leader Harpreet Singh Njjar, a Canadian citizen – an allegation strongly denied by the Indian government that led to a deterioration in bilateral relations.

New Delhi had accused Mr. Nijjar of being a terrorist during his campaign for a Sikh homeland in the northern Indian state of Punjab that Sikh separatists refer to as Khalistan. A 2020 statement by the Indian government alleged he was “actively involved in operationalizing, networking, training and financing” members of the militant group Khalistan Tiger Force.

Mr. Trudeau said that Canadian intelligence had identified “credible allegations” of a link between Mr. Nijjar’s death and agents of the Indian state. He made the announcement in the House of Commons on Sept. 18, after the Prime Minister’s Office learned that The Globe planned to publish the story based on national-security sources. The Globe story was published shortly before Mr. Trudeau rose in the Commons.

Mr. Trudeau had already raised the allegations with his Indian counterpart at the G20 summit in New Delhi in September. CSIS director David Vigneault and the Prime Minister’s national-security adviser Jody Thomas also travelled to India to present the findings, government officials have told The Globe.

However, New Delhi has denied any involvement in Mr. Nijjar’s death, insisting that Canada has not shared credible evidence to show Indian agents were behind the slaying.

The accusation had an immediate impact on Indo-Canadian relations. Ottawa shelved free-trade talks and a business trade mission to India, while New Delhi stripped 41 Canadian diplomats of their diplomatic protections in the South Asian country.

Canada’s allegations were buttressed after U.S. authorities announced in November that they had foiled a plan to kill a Canadian-American Sikh activist in New York and uncovered apparent links to the slaying of Mr. Nijjar and threats to three other Canadian Sikhs.

A criminal indictment unsealed in New York said that Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national who was arrested in the Czech Republic in June, allegedly arranged the murder for hire of the U.S.-based Sikh activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for the New York-based Sikhs for Justice.

Mr. Gupta allegedly told an undercover officer less than two weeks before Mr. Nijjar’s death that there was a “big target” in Canada. Mr. Gupta was allegedly recruited by an Indian government employee to “orchestrate the assassination” of Mr. Pannun. The Indian agent described himself as a “senior field officer” who previously served in the country’s Central Reserve Police Force, the indictment said, “and had responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence.”

The Indian agent agreed to pay US$100,000 to a purported hitman, who was an undercover police officer, to kill Mr. Pannun in a deal brokered by Mr. Gupta, U.S. prosecutors allege.

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