Son of slain B.C. Sikh leader says family, friends always believed India played role in assassination

Balraj Singh Nijjar, 21, spoke publicly for the first time since the killing of his father Hardeep on June 18


Caption: Balraj Singh Nijjar, centre, the son of slain gurdwara president Hardeep Singh Nijjar, said the prime minister's accusation that the Indian government was involved in his father's death came as a relief. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The son of a Surrey, B.C., Sikh leader killed earlier this year says he feels a sense of relief after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government Monday of being involved in the fatal shooting.
Balraj Singh Nijjar, 21, was speaking publicly for the first time since the shooting death of his father Hardeep, 45, on June 18, shortly after evening prayers at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey.
Trudeau said in the House of Commons that intelligence reports had found credible links between Indian government agents and the killing, though no one has been charged yet.
The Indian government had previously offered a reward for Hardeep's arrest, accusing the gurdwara president of heading a violent separatist movement for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan.
It's a charge his supporters deny.
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Media Video | The National : What led Canada to accuse India of role in Sikh leader’s death

Caption: The National breaks down the factors and events leading up to the shooting death of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Plus, former CSIS analyst Jessica Davis explains what needed to happen for Canada to accuse the Indian government of murder.

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Balraj, the elder of Hardeep's two sons, said his family and close friends always suspected the Indian government was behind his father's brazen killing.
"It was just a matter of time for when the truth would come out," he told reporters in the same gurdwara parking lot where his father was slain. "When we heard the news today, it was a sense of relief that it's finally coming to the public eyes."
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Media Video | CBC News BC : Sikh leader's son says he long suspected India had a role in father's death

Caption: Balraj Singh Nijjar, 21, told reporters that he felt a sense of relief after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said publicly that Canada has seen intelligence allegedly linking the Indian government to the killing of his father, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

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Balraj thanked Trudeau, as well as federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who both condemned the killing in the House of Commons.
"Hopefully, you can take this a step further and get specific individuals," he said, addressing the leaders. "If you place sanctions, whatever the next steps are, we're waiting as a family to see what it is."
India has rejected Trudeau's allegations. Its ministry of external affairs issued a statement Monday night calling them "absurd."

Image | Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara

Caption: Members of the Sikh community are pictured at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara where Hardeep Singh Nijjar was murdered in Surrey B.C, on Monday, September 18, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Balraj was speaking three months to the day after his father was killed and stood a few metres away from where Hardeep was sitting in his pickup truck when he was shot.
He said his father had called home five minutes before the killing, in high spirits, asking his family to have dinner ready.
Many members of the Sikh community said that Canadian authorities failed to protect Hardeep before his assassination, saying that Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had previously warned the Sikh leader he was in danger.
WATCH | What is behind the movement for an independent Sikh state?

Media Video | CBC News BC : What is Khalistan? A look at the movement for an independent Sikh state

Caption: Some Sikhs have historically been seeking an independent Sikh homeland in northern India called Khalistan. Experts say the history of the movement is complex, emotional and evolving.

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After his father's death, Balraj said he was the main point of contact for CSIS and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), and understood that investigations took time and involved lengthy processes.
"I just tried assuring everyone that, kind of, let this take time," he said. "Don't think it's being swept under the rug."
Balraj added the killing of his father was not just one of a random Sikh man, but of a temple president who was shot outside his own place of worship.
"I hope they can take it into take into consideration," he said. "That's a very serious matter and foreign interference is not a small thing."
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Media Video | The National : Canadian Sikhs call for more protection

Caption: Members of Canada's Sikh community are expressing concern about their safety after Justin Trudeau accused agents from India of killing a Sikh activist in Surrey, B.C. They say Canadian law enforcement should do more to ensure their safety from foreign agents.

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In a statement, IHIT Sgt. Timothy Pierotti said investigators were not yet in a position to discuss specifics on the case.
"This remains a priority investigation for [IHIT] and we have and will continue to work closely with our local, provincial and national police agencies and partners in order to advance this investigation," he said.