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On September 18, 2023, Trudeau accuses India's government of involvement in killing of Canadian Sikh leader states

"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," Trudeau said Monday in a speech to the House of Commons.

"Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.

"As you would expect, we have been working closely and co-ordinating with our allies on this very serious matter."

I have also read several other articles (e.g., Canada shared Nijjar killing allegations with India ‘weeks ago,’ Trudeau says and Trudeau declines to offer more evidence on Indian accusations) regarding this statement by Justin Trudeau (Canada's prime minister). However, I am still unclear on what its political purpose was, since it seems to me that it would have been better to keep something like this private.

If this was to try to get the Indian government to co-operate more fully, it seems to have the opposite effect instead. Also, since Trudeau is not doing particularly well in the polls, it might be an attempt to get more support from the Canadian population. This could be from Canadians in general, by showing them the government is standing up for their rights, but I doubt it'll make much difference to most people. More directly, he may be trying to gain support from the Sikh population in Canada, but that is only about 2%. On the other hand, it might anger some of the other East Indian population here, and business people who might be negatively affected by the loss of trade.

Trudeau's statement has caused significant damage to Canada's relations with India. For example, from Trudeau declines to offer more evidence on Indian accusations,

The accusations have set off a tense set of diplomatic moves. Canada began the back and forth by expelling an Indian diplomat, who Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said was the chief intelligence official in Canada.

India responded shortly thereafter, expelling a Canadian diplomat from India.

Canada also voluntarily removed staff from the Indian high commission in New Delhi and consulates in the country on Wednesday, citing threats that had been made against embassy staff through social media.

and

India has also stopped issuing visas for travel between Canada and India.

What political purposes might have been served by Trudeau making that accusation, especially those that counteract the negative consequences summarized above?

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    Well, murder is quite a serious crime in some jurisdictions, and to "keep it quiet" for the sake of "not causing a fuss" might not be the most ethical course of action.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 21:47
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    If there is a "political purpose", beyond simply holding a foreign state accountable for an - alleged - assassination on Canadian soil by a foreign power, then those "political purposes" will most assuredly not be expressed by the government. For example, if it is to court the Sikh electorate in Canada, then Trudeau will certainly not state that fact, making answers beyond the simple direct reason - not accepting foreign lawbreaking on our territory - very liable to veer into opinions and conspiracy. It is certainly an intriguing question, but one very hard to answer. Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 22:24
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    Additionally, while one can be somewhat dubious of the public handling of this case - I watched Trudeau's address to Parliament and wonder at making such accusations without immediately providing public evidence, we also don't know what was done through regular diplomatic channels. Trudeau met Modi a few weeks ago, in what was widely reported to be a frosty meeting. For all we know, Trudeau only took this step after getting stonewalled by Modi. At which point you can ask yourself if it is useful to respect diplomatic niceties or call out a criminal act - if it indeed occurred as claimed Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 22:33
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    Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/34494/… Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 4:35
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    It could be interesting to compare this case with another crime where the host country allegedly covered the foreign country perpetrators: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMIA_bombing . It didn't end very well for the government of the host country.
    – Pere
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 19:02

3 Answers 3

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Basically the same reasons that the U.S. made public the allegations of Saudi Arabia's royal family being involved in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi when he briefly visited Turkey several years ago. Namely, to make it known that political murders are not acceptable and that those responsible should be held accountable.

If country A lets country B get away with murdering its citizens or residents for political reasons, especially in country A's territory or that of some friendly third country, and actively covers up country B's involvement, that sends the message that country B or other countries can continue to do that and get away with it without significant consequences. Making it public sends the opposite message - and also puts public pressure on country B's government to prosecute the people responsible if country A can't do that (e.g. due to those responsible not being in country A.) Making country B suffer the publicly-embarrassing consequences of their actions sends a strong message to the world that such behavior is never acceptable and won't be tolerated just to keep up foreign relations.

It additionally sends the message that murdering dissidents in general is not something that country A approves of or which it will allow to be swept under the rug.

Of course, making it public also sends a message to country A's citizens and residents that country A's government won't let other countries get away with crimes against them. On the flip side, it would be (and should be) an extreme political embarrassment (and perhaps also a crime in some countries) if it later were discovered that country A's government leadership covered up a political murder of country A's own citizens on country A's soil just to avoid upsetting the foreign government officials who committed and/or ordered the murder.

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    I don't think the U.S. government went public with Khashoggi's assassination. Khashoggi worked with the Washington Post one of the largest Newspapers in the United States. I think they went public with the story. What really escalated the story was when Saudi feeling the heat from the Post, claimed Khashoggi was killed by host country Turkey after having left their embassy. That got Turkish Intelligence involved who proved Khashoggi never left the Saudi embassy, and eventually produced the audio tapes of his assassination inside the embassy. The U.S. government was late to the party.
    – user47010
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 14:04
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    There are significant differences between this case and Khashoggi with regards to the US. The murder happened outside the US, and Khashoggi was not a US citizen or permanent resident (he lived in the US under a non-immigrant visa).
    – user71659
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 19:04
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    @user71659 Yes, there are definitely significant differences between the particular cases, but the reasons for publicizing and condemning it were similar. That Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Canadian citizen and murdered on Canadian soil just makes these same reasons apply even more deeply in this case.
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 21:28
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    “it would be (and should be) an extreme political embarrassment (and perhaps also a crime in some countries) if it later were discovered that country A's government leadership covered up a political murder of country A's own citizens on country A's soil just to avoid upsetting the foreign government officials” — This is a false dichotomy. Not having the PM publicly address international press is not the same as covering up. It is possible to work on and solve the case within normal international crime-solving channels without a press conference by the head of state. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 11:58
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Sure, the PM didn't have to have a press conference to announce it. But since our media had been pretty rife with speculation that the Indian government was involved, since the day of the murder, to not say something after getting solid evidence and the PM had already talked to Modi about it would have definitely led to accusations of cover-up.
    – Auspex
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:40
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Question:

Political purpose of Canada's prime minister publicly accusing India's government of being involved with killing a Canadian Sikh leader

Short Answer:

Accountability for those responsible.

Answer:

India is a democracy. India has laws. First making the case to India's government was an offer for dialog. Evidently the dialog was not satisfactory so Canada is now making the accusations public. One would think this would cause political exposure, public embarrassment, and problems for those responsible in India from other Indians. If Canada can attach names to the crime, they might be able to inhibit those directly responsible from traveling abroad, certainly traveling to Canada in the future. Even tie it to specific organizations in India. Then those also can be targeted, sanctioned etc.

I would assume that sharing of evidence would happen when/if legal systems got involved. The fact it's not being made public immediately likely is to protect sources. The investigation is not complete. Canada isn't going to share the evidence until it is. Maybe not then if they want to preserve the source. They must think they have pretty strong evidence having made the accusations public like they did.

Canada referencing they are working with "their allies" is a further escalation. Canada has a long list of allies many important for India. There are diplomatic channels to pursue this in which could have repercussions for India. Those would require evidence, which Canada seems to be gathering.

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Also, assume he doesn't do this, but the case is leaked to the press by some lower level official. It would cause a fair amount of internal political trouble for the PM. Accusations of double standards etc., given Canada's previous strong stance against Saudi Arabia in a similar case.

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    As I refreshed my memory on this a little, Trudeau reacted strongly to the Kashoggi murder too even though that didn't take place on Canadian soil. Relations with the Saudis were already bad though, with ambassadors recalled etc., because of the previous disputes when Trudeau spoke in favor of some human rights activists. It took ~5 years for relations to normalize theglobeandmail.com/canada/… Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 8:16
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    I wasn't particularly explicit & clear in my question that it's not so much what Trudeau said, but rather when, I was asking about. I'm confident he wouldn't have said anything unless he had strong (more likely very strong) evidence that Indian government agents were involved. It makes sense (at least to me) to have waited until later, such as just before charges are laid (although that might not be for a long time, if ever). However, the political "math" indicates it also makes sense to pay a significant political price now, rather than a possibly much larger one later (e.g., due to a leak). Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 12:00
  • In fact, the mruder was reported immediately, as any such lurid murder in Canada would be. It was already being reported as an almost certain act of Indian Intelligence before well Treaudu complained about it. So the facts of the murder and the likely culprits being "leaked" was never an issue.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 21:42
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    @T.E.D.: I guess. Still it looks like the reporting (from Canada) had some gaps. E.g. WaPo has a piece "Witnesses and security video viewed by The Washington Post reveal a more complex operation to kill Hardeep Singh Nijjar than authorities have described" Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 22:32
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    @Fizz - WaPo devoted some serious resources to investigating it. That was kind of my point though. In a free society, you can't really suppress news of a murder like that. The answer is in the main correct. I'm just pointing out that a "leak" perhaps isn't the right term when 3rd parties are quite capable of seeing or finding out the truth. This would be like looking at a watermelon smashed by Gallagher and going "Hmmm...I guess the watermelon leaked."
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 13:48

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