Surrey Sikh gurdwara president shot, killed: IHIT

Surrey mourns a prominent leader and activist in the local Sikh community, after he was shot to death in a car outside a gurdwara. Advocates tell Kier Junos others like Hardeep Singh Nijjar face the same danger in Canada, and around the world.

Homicide investigators have confirmed that Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the president of a Sikh gurdwara in Surrey, was the victim of a deadly shooting on Sunday.

In a press conference Monday, Sgt. Timothy Pierotti with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) confirmed Nijjar’s death.

This comes after Surrey RCMP officers were called to the parking lot of a gurdwara on 120 Street near 70 Avenue just before 8:30 p.m.

When officers arrived, they found the 45-year-old inside a vehicle with gunshot wounds. He died of his injuries at the scene.

Pierotti adds that the shooting appears to be “targeted,” but says investigators are still looking into the potential motive.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards adds that the “homicide was a brazen act of violence.”

“I am absolutely appalled that this would take place in a house of worship in the City of Surrey,” Edwards said. “It’s disgusting. It’s appalling. And as a community, neither the police or the residents of this community will stand for it.”

“This was a shocking and very public act of violence against a well-known community member and gurdwara president.”

Footage posted to social media shows the victim slumped over in the driver’s seat of a pick-up truck. There’s blood on his shirt and there are bullets on the ground. Another piece of footage shows a car on fire soon after, but there’s no police confirmation the two scenes are linked.


Investigators are calling for anyone with information about the shooting to speak with police.

“We’re aware that many people were present at the time of the shooting. It’s important that investigators speak to every person who was a witness. Anyone who has yet to speak to police is asked to please contact IHIT immediately. IHIT is asking that anyone with information regarding this offense, or anyone with dash camera video from 120th Street or the parking lot of the Gurdwara between 7 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. on June 18, 2023, please contact IHIT immediately,” Pierotti said.

“Even if your vehicle was off and you’re parked in the parking lot, please check your vehicle as some vehicles do record while the vehicle is parked. If you have that footage, please contact us immediately to help advance our investigation.”

Mourners gather outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey Monday, June 19. (CityNews / Mike Lloyd)

Mourners gather outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey Monday, June 19. (CityNews / Mike Lloyd)

Initially, the Sikh Community of BC was one of many who posted on social media and identified Nijjar as the victim.

The BC Sikh community has suffered an immeasurable loss tonight at the hands of spineless cowards. Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar, fearless activist and tireless president of @SurreyGurdwara has been shot dead,” it wrote on Twitter.

Witness heard 8 to 10 gunshots while playing soccer nearby

CityNews’ sister station OMNI News spoke to a witness Sunday night, who wants to remain anonymous due to safety reasons, who was near the gurdwara playing soccer with his friends around the time of the shooting.

“Around 8:30 we heard what we thought were fireworks. But one of the guys we were playing with said, ‘No, I don’t think those are fireworks something happened, and let’s go look.’ Then we saw some guys running [in] our direction,” the witness said.

“Some of our friends followed the men that were running. I came to check on the vehicle that had been shot. And I saw all the glass broken on the driver’s side. You could see a lifeless body. There were gunshot wounds to his head.”

The witness says while police cruisers arrived about seven minutes after the first 911 calls, the ambulance arrived to the scene around 25 minutes later.

“We hear around eight to 10 gunshots,” the witness said. “The friends that followed them went towards 68 Avenue where the (alleged hitmen’s) car was parked. Someone had told them the car was there for 2 hours. It was a small silver-coloured vehicle, I think. Can’t say for sure.”

The witness says Nijjar was always doing community service, and “did a great job.”

“You never know what can happen. We just came to play soccer. We’re at a place of worship, you’re supposed to feel safe,” he said.

Mourners gathered Sunday night outside the Gurdwara, with many still at the scene early Monday morning holding yellow Khalistan flags.

Sikh leader had controversial past

There are reports out of India that Nijjar was a wanted man in that country.


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The Hindustan Times is one of several outlets reporting that the National Investigation Agency had posted a reward worth more than 1 million rupees ($16,500 CAD) to capture Nijjar, in connection to a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in India.

Nijjar was an outspoken activist and said to be a pro-Khalistan, a Sikh separatist movement, leader.

The Times of India (TOI) reports in 2016, Nijjar was accused of running a terror training camp in Mission, B.C., to help carry out potential attacks in Punjab. The TOI added he previously called those allegations “factually baseless and fabricated.”

The TOI also reports Nijjar had written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking the federal Liberal leader to help clear his name.

Nijjar was also widely said to be associated with a separatist organization called Sikhs for Justice, which has been banned in India for the last four years. His name was also on a list of designated terrorists released by the Indian government.

“This was a shocking and very public act of violence against a well-known community member and Gurdwara president,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel and spokesperson with the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

Singh says Nijjar’s death is the third targeted killing of a Sikh activist in the last six weeks. Singh says Nijjar and others have raised concerns about threats to their safety online – and says the Canadian Security Intelligence Service should have done something to prevent his death.

“This is really an intelligence failure, as far as we’re concerned. They knew he was being targeted, and yet nothing was done to protect him.”

“We are calling for a thorough investigation into this assassination. We need to find out not just who pulled the trigger, but who’s behind this killing. Who ordered it?” said Singh.

In a statement to CityNews, the CFSEU-BC — the province’s integrated anti-gang agency — says there is no information at this time that the killing is gang-related.

Pierotti added, “In terms of whether there were threats to Mr. Nijjar in the past, that’s certainly something that we’ll be looking into,” he said. “I can’t speak to exactly what his background is and what information the police have at this point.”

“We are in the early stages of our investigation. We understand there’s a lot of speculation as to the motive of this homicide, but we are dedicated to learning the facts and letting the evidence lead our investigation.”

He adds that he considers the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to be a partner.

“If CSIS has information that we can share then we certainly will,” he noted.

With files from Mike Lloyd, Kier Junos, and Rajgaurav Shergill, OMNI News

Editors Note: This article has been updated to correct an error regarding the amount of the reward. The reward was 1 million Indian rupees, not Canadian dollars.

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