A member of the Surrey, B.C., gurdwara where local Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar served as president before he was gunned down in June said police warned him last month about a threat to his life.
Gurmeet Toor, who calls himself a close friend of Nijjar, said he was surprised when two police officers knocked on his door at around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 24 and handed him a “duty to warn” letter saying his life may be in danger.
“I was thinking, ‘What did I do?’ I asked who was behind the threat, and they said they couldn’t answer that question,” Toor said in Punjabi.
Toor is a member of the management committee at the same gurdwara where Nijjar was shot and has been campaigning in the unofficial referendum on Khalistan, a separate homeland that some Sikhs want to carve out of India’s Punjab province.
Police advised Toor to be careful, to avoid gatherings and to move to a safer location, but they wouldn’t provide details on the threat, he told The Canadian Press.
The warning came a few weeks before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Sept. 18 announcement that Canada’s intelligence services were investigating “credible” information about “a potential link” between Nijjar’s killing and the Indian government.
India, which had issued an arrest warrant for Nijjar over his advocacy for a separate Sikh state, has denied the accusation as “absurd and motivated.”
Toor said the youngest of his three children is living elsewhere after the B.C. Children’s Ministry advised him to take the step following the visit by police.
“It’s hard, that one of our children has been ripped away from us.”
But Toor said he has decided not to live in fear.
“I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m a hard-working taxpayer, a volunteer in the community, a small businessman. I only talk about Sikh sovereignty,” Toor said of his work campaigning in the referendum on Khalistan.
Nijjar had been helping to organize the referendum before his death.
A statement attributed to Toor and distributed by the group Sikhs for Justice says he asked if the police officers who warned him of the threat to his life could provide him with a bullet proof vest, but they responded that it would be illegal.
“I was told by the officers that the fact that they have come to me at this hour of the night should be taken as an indication that the (threat) is really serious,” it says.
Toor said he believes two other members of the Sikh community in Surrey have also received “duty to warn” letters, but he declined to provide details.
In July, Toor joined members of the community, including Nijjar’s son, for a virtual meeting with then-public safety minister Marco Mendicino and two Liberal members of Parliament from Surrey to share their concerns about the possibility that the Indian government was involved in the killing, he said.
He said he has since attended three more meetings, including with the RCMP, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams, led by the Mounties.
Toor said Trudeau’s bombshell statement about possible Indian involvement in Nijjar’s killing should lead to the expulsion of India’s high commissioner in Canada.
He said he joined the Sikhs for Justice group this week to officially make that request in a letter to Trudeau and all federal political leaders.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.