Canada’s response to justice and democracy in the face of assassination

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By Patrick Hung

Last month, the Justice Department in New York City indicted 52-year-old Nikhil Gupta for murder-for-hire. Gupta allegedly hired a hitman to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a leader in the Khalistan movement and spokesperson for Sikhs for Justice. The U.S. indictment also links Gupta to the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada on June 18.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar

In stark juxtaposition to Nijjar’s demise, the United States effectively foiled an assassination plot, thereby securing pivotal evidence for prosecution. They successfully urged the Indian government to formally respond in support of the investigation. This incongruity in reactions to a shared challenge has instilled a profound sense of humiliation within Canada’s intelligence services, judiciary, and the whole administration.

Canada, with its extensive immigration history, affords protection under the Canadian Constitution and associated laws to every lawful immigrant who attains citizenship. The ruthless assassination of a Sikh leader by Indian agents within Canadian borders not only signals a blatant disregard for Canada’s rule of law but also serves as a grave provocation to the Sikh community residing in the country.

Why Minorities Matter

In an electoral-centric political framework, votes serve as a crucial mechanism for securing representation in government. Broadly, minority citizens exhibit a heightened sense of identity, often prioritizing foreign policy objectives over other concerns. They demonstrate a proclivity to coalesce in support of representatives who can effectively wield their influence, showcasing an active engagement in politics that counters the majorities- prevalent voter fatigue. Through the ballot box, minority voices gain amplification, transforming them into an indispensable political force capable of exerting substantial influence on any political party.

In the recent general election, Canada boasted 27.4 million eligible voters, yet only approximately 7 million cast their votes, resulting in a turnout of roughly 25.5% – equivalent to one in four eligible Canadian voters. Notably, although the Sikh community constitutes 1.9% of the population, their extraordinary political cohesion is evident with 15 Sikh Members of Parliament currently holding seats in the House of Commons. This significant representation surpasses 4% of the total seats, establishing Sikhs as a pivotal component in Canada’s political landscape.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The federal election allocates 338 seats in the House of Commons, requiring a minimum of I70 seats for a majority government. In the latest election, the leading federal Liberals secured 160 seats, while the second-place Conservatives obtained 119 seats. Given this narrow seat margin, the backing of any minority group emerges as a pivotal political asset that cannot be disregarded. Within the Trudeau government, notable figures such as Harjit Sajjan served as Minister of Defense, and Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Science and Industry, are both Sikhs.

Additionally, Jagmeet Singh, another Sikh, leads the opposition New Democrats, a left-leaning party holding 25 seats in the House of Commons that supports Trudeau’s minority government. The Sikhs’ political achievements mirror Canada’s pluralistic ethos, showcasing how ethnic minorities, through self-struggle and solidarity, assert their political rights.

The active involvement of minorities is foundational to Canadian democracy, necessitating the serious consideration and protection of their civil rights by political leaders and parties – a constitutional mandate and duty to preserve Canada’s core values.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

Rejecting Geopolitical Coercion

India, touting itself as the world’s largest democracy, capitalizes on its vast population, economic prowess, and strategic geographic position. It assumes a crucial role in initiatives like the U.S. “Indo-Pacific strategy” and the “Indo-European Economic Corridor.”

Significantly, Western nations consider India a pivotal ally in countering China. Post-assassination, Canada’s allies have largely refrained from comment, possibly reluctant to strain relations with India over an incident involving only one Canadian citizen.

India rejects Canada’s assassination allegations, refusing cooperation, and hoping the incident could just fade away in time. However, this overlooks the reality that geopolitical actions should not compromise democracy and the rule of law.

No democratic country can tolerate the killing of citizens on home soil without consequences, challenging the very essence of Canada’s nationhood.

If Canada remains silent on the Indian government’s actions due to diplomatic interests, it risks encouraging further assassinations and provocations against Canadian Sikhs. This not only instills fear within Canada’s Sikh community but also undermines the confidence of other minorities, shaking the country’s fundamental national interests and tarnishing its international reputation as a law-governed world democracy.

No Room for Compromise

Pierre Poilievre

Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party, is favored to become the next Prime Mister. On a television program, criticizing the Trudeau-led government for worsening Canada’s relations with India and stressing the need for a more professional relationship, he touted repairing relations with India if he is elected. But Mr. Poilievre was too arrogant, when it comes to core national interests and national sovereignty, any compromise or weakness is not an option.

Canada must steadfastly uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law in addressing the assassination matter. It is imperative to suspend any ongoing cooperative engagements with India, including Free Trade Agreement Negotiations until the Indian government demonstrates a genuine commitment to addressing this grave issue through dialogue. Furthermore, it is strongly advised that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSlCOP), an entity instituted in 2017 comprising members with the highest level of security clearance, be activated to compile a comprehensive report. This report should encompass pertinent information regarding the ongoing litigation and serve as the basis for initiating relevant legal actions.

Moreover, Canada must unambiguously communicate its stance to all allies, emphasizing the gravity of foreign interference in its sovereignty as an unequivocally unacceptable matter. Positive engagement with the United States and Indian stakeholders is crucial to underscore the pivotal nature of Canada’s concerns and to foster a collective response.