B.C. premier suspects Ottawa holding back information about foreign interference

'I expressed my frustration in the meeting with the CSIS director about our inability to get more concrete information.'

B.C. Premier David Eby says people in his province have been "feeling pressure from India" following the prime minister's announcement earlier this week of India's potential involvement with the killing of a Canadian on B.C. soil. | Province of B.C.

British Columbia Premier David Eby said he "strongly" suspects that the federal government is holding back information that could help the province protect its residents who have connections to India from foreign interference.

Public Safety MinisterDominic LeBlanc has reached out, saying Ottawa wants to make sure the provincial government has the details it needs to keep B.C. residents safe, "but there has not been good information sharing," the premier said Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed in Parliament on  Monday that Canadian intelligence services were investigating "a potential link" between the Indian government and the fatal shooting of Sikh advocate Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C., last June.

In response to the killing, Eby said on Friday that the priority should be protecting the criminal prosecution process so people can be held accountable for the killing.

But on the broader issue of ensuring community safety, he said there's "a long way to go to share that information."

Eby said people in B.C. have been "feeling pressure from India," and he believes Ottawa has information through agencies including the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that could help respond to foreign interference.

The premier's initial statement in response to Trudeau's announcement called on Ottawa to "share all relevant information" related not only to foreign interference, but also to "transnational organized crime threats" in the province.

He said Friday that the prime minister had reached out before telling Parliament about the probe based on "credible" information about the potential link between India and Nijjar's killing.

Eby accepted Trudeau's offer for a briefing by CSIS, but everything the premier knows about the situation is "in the public realm," he said.

"I expressed my frustration in the meeting with the CSIS director about our inability to get more concrete information," Eby said.

He made the remarks during a media question-and-answer session after addressing local politicians at the Union of BC Municipalities conference.

Eby said he understands there may need to be reform around the law governing CSIS in order for the agency to share the kind of information he's looking for.

"If that's what’s required, let's make it happen, because the only way that we're going to make traction on this is by the federal government trusting the provincial government with information and being able to act on it in our local communities," he said. 

Nijjar was a prominent supporter of the Khalistan separatism movement that advocates for a Sikh homeland in India's Punjab province. He had been working to organize an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora on independence from India at the time of his killing.

India designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020, an accusation he had denied.

Canada and India expelled each other's diplomats in the fallout of Trudeau's announcement, and India has halted visa services in Canada.

India's government has denied the accusation as "absurd and motivated."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press