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Sikh community gathers to remember slain B.C. gurdwara president

Surrey's Guru Nanak gurdwara president, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was shot and killed on June 18, 2023

As a sombre anniversary approaches, members of Surrey's Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara are taking the time to remember.

On Sunday (June 16), members of the gurdwara — located on the Surrey-Delta border of Scott Road — gathered to recall how Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was gunned down in its parking lot on the night of June 18, 2023, nearly one year ago. Nijjar, who was the president of the gurdwara, was found in his truck suffering from gunshot wounds before succumbing to his injuries at the scene.

Moninder Singh, spokesperson for the B.C. Gurdwara Council, said the gathering is part of a prayer service that will continue for two consecutive days leading up to the anniversary of Nijjar's killing on Tuesday, when a large program is planned. He estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people had come and gone through the gurdwara throughout the day on Sunday (June 16).

"It's kind of like a reflection of the last year of what's happened where the community has seen international outcry against India, international media questioning India and this assassination and also, at an internal level, a reflection opportunity around how we as the community feel losing a community leader," Singh said.

Four Indian nationals living in Canada — Amandeep Singh, 22, Karan Brar, 22, Kamalpreet Singh, 22, and Karanpreet Singh, 28 — are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Nijjar's death.

Three of the four men charged appeared in person in red prison garb in a high-security courtroom in Surrey Provincial Court on May 21; the fourth (Amandeep Singh) appeared remotely from Ontario, where he is being held. Judge Emmet Duncan set their next court appearance for June 25.

Nijjar was a vocal advocate of Khalistan, the controversial Sikh movement for a separate homeland in India.

Accusations against India have grown for the possibility of its involvement in Nijjar’s death, which the country has denied on several occasions. Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is credible evidence for the claim, but the matter is still under investigation.

For Moninder Singh and the local Sikh community, the question of potential Indian involvement is uppermost in their minds.

"This remembrance is also forward thinking as well — so what are the things we need to do to make sure that we are secure as a country, as in Canada, from this type of interference and also as a community here, as a Sikh community," he said. 

He said the community wants to "press down" on the question of India's political interference in Canada. 

"People here are really interested to know how deep does India infiltrate, how have they infiltrated Canada and what will Canada be doing about that to kind of protect its own sovereignty and its democratic processes," he said.

Members of the community will continue to gather at the gurdwara for prayer throughout the evening and for the coming two days (Monday and Tuesday). 

More to come.

– with files from Tom Zytaruk and Sobia Moman