Trade Minister Mary Ng suggested Wednesday that Canada won’t restart its trade talks with India until Narendra Modi’s government co-operates with the investigation into the murder of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver last June.
In a media scrum at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, a reporter asked Ng whether there was a path back to resuming trade talks between the two countries.
“Right now, the focus for Canada is to let the work of the investigation proceed,” the minister said. “You’ve heard me and the government talk about how important it is that investigation happens given that we had a Canadian killed on Canadian soil. So we’ll let that happen.”
Ng said Canadian businesses continue to do business in India and her job as trade minister is to make sure they have the supports and tools they need.
When asked to clarify whether she was making a direct link between the need for co-operation on this investigation and the resumption of trade talks, Ng said no.
“Our focus is of course on this investigation, that work has to take place,” she said. “And for Canadian businesses, just to reassure them, because they expect that of their government, that the tools are available to them as they continue to do business and to invest and to make investments and attract investment, that the services of the Canadian government continue to be there for them.”
The scrum then ended.
India’s High Commissioner to Canada first told The Canadian Press in September that trade talks had been paused by Canada, without a complete explanation at that time.
It was later reported that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser travelled to India last summer to confront Indian officials with evidence gathered by Five Eyes intelligence partners that suggested the Modi government was involved in Nijjar’s murder.
Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C., on June 18.
Following an uncomfortable trip to India for the G20 summit, where the murder was again raised in private, Trudeau rose in the House of Commons on Sept. 18 and publicly accused the Indian government of being involved in the killing.
India’s government rejected the allegation, calling it “absurd.”
India then threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of some Canadian diplomats, forcing the Canadian government to withdraw 41 Canadian diplomats from India.
The Canadian government has accused Modi’s government of failing to co-operate with its investigation into the murder.
Allies like the U.S. and the U.K. have applied pressure on India to work with Canadian authorities on the ongoing criminal investigation into Nijjar’s killing.
Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated his call for the government of India to co-operate with Canada on the ongoing criminal investigation into the killing of the Canadian in British Columbia.
Blinken said he raised the issue with his Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in a meeting in New Delhi.
“These are two of our closest friends and partners, and of course we want to see them resolving any differences or disputes that they have,” Blinken told reporters.