SURREY, B.C. — Fears at a British Columbia Sikh temple that the killing of its president was related to foreign interference prompted a meeting between Liberal Sikh members of Parliament and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.
The shooting death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar took place Sunday evening in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the Surrey-Newton riding of Sukh Dhaliwal.
"The community is shattered. There are very, very high emotions," said Dhaliwal in an interview Friday, calling the homicide "a very serious matter."
He was among seven members of the Liberal Sikh caucus who met Mendicino on Wednesday evening.
Dhaliwal said the meeting was called to make sure the minister was aware the temple's leaders allege there was a foreign hand in the killing.
Dhaliwal said he and Surrey-Centre MP Randeep Sarai had spoken with the gurdwara's executive committee, and members were not feeling safe since the killing.
"They came to me, and they alleged that there is foreign interference into this," he said.
"We asked for a meeting with the minister on this so we can update the minister and make sure that CSIS and the RCMP go to the bottom of it to resolve this issue and the congregation can feel safe," Dhaliwal added.
Nijjar was a vocal advocate for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan in India, where he was accused of terrorism and conspiring to murder a Hindu priest.
Nijjar's lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has called the killing an "assassination," and said Nijjar's safety had been threatened after a reward was offered by the Indian government for his arrest last year.
Pannun denied that Nijjar was involved in any criminal or violent activity.
"We've got to make sure every constituent of ours, every Canadian is feeling safe," said Dhaliwal. "Canadians from coast to coast to coast should be able to feel safe in their places of worship."
Surrey homicide investigators said Nijjar was gunned down in his vehicle as he was leaving the temple parking lot around 8.30 p.m. Sunday and they are looking for two male suspects.
Dhaliwal said caucus members were assured by Mendicino the federal government was working closely with law enforcement to solve the crime and protect the Sikh community and Canadians.
Mendicino posted a statement on Twitter saying: "I remain very disturbed by the violence at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey last weekend. All Canadians should be able to practice their faith safely and free from violence."
Mendicino's office said in a statement Friday that the minister "imparted his deep concern" about the killing in the meeting with the MPs.
The statement said the MPs and Mendicino discussed the police investigation. "We will be there to support the Sikh community at this difficult moment,” the statement said.
Mendicino will hold an online meeting with the temple executive, said Dhaliwal, adding a date for the meeting has not been set.
— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2023.
The Canadian Press