OTTAWA — Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday he received an intelligence briefing about allegations that the Indian government could be behind the killing of a Sikh gurdwara leader in British Columbia.
"I can confirm what the prime minister has shared publicly: that there is clear intelligence that Canada has that lays out the following case that a Canadian citizen was killed on Canadian soil and a foreign government was involved," Singh told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.
"That intelligence is something that I think is very credible."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons Sept. 18 about "credible allegations" that the Indian government was involved in the June death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C.
The well-known activist belonged to a movement that advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh state in India's Punjab province. India's government had labelled him a terrorist but has denied any involvement in his killing, calling the allegations by Trudeau "absurd and motivated."
The extraordinary allegation has worsened already rocky relations between India and Canada. India's government has accused Canada of not providing evidence to back up its claim, while Trudeau and other other ministers have called on India to co-operate with investigations.
Singh said Trudeau first told him and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre about the allegations against India before sharing them publicly. Three days later, Singh received a briefing from Trudeau's national security adviser, Jody Thomas.
Singh told reporters Tuesday that he was able to request the briefing on the matter because of the top-secret security clearance he obtained to review foreign-interference materials prepared by former governor general David Johnston, who had been named as a special rapporteur to explore that issue. Johnston has resigned from that role.
The former governor general’s report had concluded that Trudeau’s government did not knowingly or negligently fail to act on foreign attempts to interfere in the last two federal elections.
He had also recommended against calling a public inquiry into the issue. The Liberal government ended up tapping Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to lead one earlier this month after months of outcry from, and discussions with, opposition parties.
Singh said that after reviewing the confidential material he had access to from Johnston, he agrees a public inquiry into foreign interference is necessary.
Poilievre has so far rejected getting the clearance needed to review the top-secret annex from Johnston's earlier report.
Poilievre said Tuesday that he was offered a briefing similar to one B.C. Premier David Eby received on the matter.
He said he doesn't believe the briefing will offer any more substantial details on the allegation and would only force him to be tight-lipped about whatever he learned.
The Conservative leader has called on Trudeau to "come clean" about the evidence behind the allegation against India, saying Canadians deserve more facts.
Singh said Tuesday he does not support that call.
"They're matters of national security and so information cannot be released beyond the general statements that were released," he said.
"There's going to be a next step in the investigation and a prosecution and then information will be made public in an appropriate manner. ... To do it early would jeopardize the investigation."
A Canadian official told The Associated Press that the allegation of India's involvement is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally.
The official said the communications involved Indian government officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance — Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The official did not say which ally provided the intelligence or give any details of the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period that aired on Sunday, David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, confirmed "there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made."
He said he does not generally comment on "private diplomatic conversations," but added: "There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that's as far as I'm comfortable going."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington and The Associated Press.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press