Canada has removed 41 diplomats from India in an ongoing dispute regarding the killing of a Sikh separatist in Vancouver. India had previously demanded Canada to withdraw its diplomatic staff and had threatened to revoke their immunity if they remained in India. Canadian officials labeled this threat as a violation of international law. The tensions escalated when Canada accused India of involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18, which India denied, considering the allegations absurd.
Canada’s Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly, confirmed that many Canadian diplomats and their families have left India. India had informed Canada that immunity would be individually removed for “all but 21 diplomats” by October 20. Consequently, Canada will have to limit its services in India due to a shortage of staff, pausing in-person operations in Bangalore, Mumbai, and Chandigarh.
Services will still be accessible through the High Commission of Canada in Delhi, and third-party-run application centers will remain open. Nevertheless, the reduction in staff is expected to cause delays in processing immigration applications, particularly affecting Indian citizens, including international students seeking to study in Canada.
India asserted that Canada had more diplomats in Delhi than India had in Ottawa and had demanded equality since the dispute began. However, the Global Affairs website listing Indian diplomats in Ottawa suggests a similar number.
The statement from India that it would strip diplomatic immunity for Canadian envoys is considered a violation of international law by Canada. Melanie Joly emphasized that Canada would not reciprocate, stating that allowing diplomatic immunity to be violated would endanger diplomats worldwide.
Despite the diplomatic tensions, Canada continues to welcome Indian nationals interested in visiting or relocating to Canada.
Canada’s relations with India have worsened after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that there was credible evidence of a possible connection between India and Nijjar’s murder. Trudeau based this claim on Canadian intelligence, alleging that “agents of the government of India” were involved, which India considered a violation of its sovereignty.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was fatally shot outside the Sikh temple he led in Surrey, British Columbia. Canadian authorities described it as a “targeted attack,” and an investigation into the murder is ongoing. Nijjar was a vocal advocate for a separate Sikh state in India called Khalistan, a movement firmly opposed by India, which had designated him as a terrorist in 2020.
Despite the public accusations, Prime Minister Trudeau has emphasized that Canada is not seeking to further escalate the dispute with India. He has called on Indian officials to cooperate with the investigation into Nijjar’s death.
Notably, Canada has a significant population with Indian heritage, including a substantial Sikh community. In recent events, hundreds of Sikhs in Canada staged rallies outside Indian diplomatic missions, burning flags and protesting against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.