Suspect in killing of temple leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar got student visa in ‘days’

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Suspect in Nijjar killing got student visa in ‘days’
WATCH: Two of the men accused of killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist living in B.C., came to Canada from India on study permits, with one taking just "days" to obtain. As Jeff Semple reports, the revelation has piled intense scrutiny on Canada's student visa system – May 8, 2024

One of the suspects accused of gunning down B.C. Sikh temple leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar entered Canada using a study permit that he said took only days to obtain.

In a video posted online in 2019, Karan Brar said he applied for a student visa through EthicWorks Immigration Services in Bathinda, in India’s Punjab state.

He said he received his study visa days later, according to a translation of his Punjabi-language statement.

EthicWorks posted the promotional video on its Facebook page, along with a photo of Brar, whom the company said was from the city of Kotkapura, north of Bathinda.

“Congratulations Karan Brar for Canada study visa,” the caption below the video read. “One more happy client from Kotkapura.”

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has declined to answer questions about how the suspects came to Canada, but online posts indicate that Brar arrived on a student permit three years before the killing.

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A separate Facebook page that appears to belong to Brar said he began studying at Bow Valley College in Calgary on April 30, 2020, and moved to Edmonton on May 4, 2020.

A college spokesperson confirmed a Karan Brar was enrolled in the Hospital Unit Clerk program in 2020. The program spans eight months, raising questions about why he remained in Canada years later.

The college said in a later statement that it had no “record of ever having an affiliation with a company named EthicWorks Immigration Services.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada declined to comment on the case, but said the government conducted “comprehensive security screening” of visa applicants.

Kamalpreet Singh (left), Karanpreet Singh (centre), and Karan Brar (right)are charged with murder and conspiracy in the killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. THE CANADIAN PRESS/RCMP. RJB

Brar, 22, was arrested in Edmonton on Friday, along with Kamalpreet Singh, 22 and Karanpreet Singh, 28. They appeared in court in Surrey, B.C. on Tuesday to face murder and conspiracy charges.

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Two of them allegedly shot Nijjar in the parking lot of Surrey’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on June 18, 2023, while the other drove the getaway car.

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Nijjar was a prominent leader of the Khalistan movement, which seeks independence for India’s Sikh-majority Punjab state. India views separatists as a threat to its national security.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last September that Canada’s investigation had found possible links to agents of the Indian government. India has denied the allegations.

The RCMP told reporters at a news conference Friday that multiple investigations were still underway, and that police were examining the suspected involvement of the Indian government.

The three suspects are all Indian citizens who were living in Edmonton, police said.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Facebook

The arrests have led to questions about the immigration status of the men, amid criticism of government policies that have fueled a spike in foreign students.

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Facing complaints that its surging international student numbers were causing problems with everything from housing to health care, the government has vowed to scale back the program.

In January, Miller said the student visa system had become open to abuse and imposed a cap on intake for the next two years, while also placing limits on work permits for foreign students.

EthicWorks Immigration Services said on its website that “Canada continues to attract more international students, even after reaching close to half a million students in recent years.”

The company is based near Ghora Chowk, Bathinda, India. According to corporate records it was registered in Canada in 2021. Its registered office is in Melfort, Sask.

Corporate records indicate the address is the residence of company director Hirdepal Brar. The second director, Jashanpreet Sidhu, lives in Brampton, Ont, the records show.

Registered office of EthicWorks Immigration Services in Melfort, Sask. Google Maps

Sidhu declined to disclose any details about Brar’s visa application, citing privacy.

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“I’m not sure when he exactly came to Canada, but the application was done in 2019,” he said.

Both directors are registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, a federal regulatory body. Its website said Hirdepal Brar has been licensed since 2018, and Sidhu obtained his license in 2019.

On its former website, which is no longer active, the company said it was founded by international students who came to Canada a decade ago, and have since immigrated.

It offers to “hold you by the hand” through the visa and immigration process.

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The arrests risked further inflaming tensions between New Delhi and Ottawa, and coincided with Friday’s release of the interim report of the public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada’s elections.

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The report said intelligence indicated that “Indian proxy agents” may have attempted to meddle in federal election by providing “illicit financial support to various Canadian politicians as a means of attempting to secure the election of pro-India candidates or gaining influence over candidates who take office.”

“In some instances, the candidates may never know their campaigns received illicit funds.”

In its annual report, released Tuesday, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service also identified India as one of the “major perpetrators” of foreign interference and espionage in Canada.

India was named along with China, Russia and Iran.

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“In 2023, these states and their intelligence services continued to engage in a variety of hostile foreign interference and espionage activities to advance their objectives and interests,” CSIS wrote.

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The report said that before Trudeau announced India’s possible role in Nijjar’s killing, Director David Vigneault and then National Security Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas travelled to India to discuss the matter with their counterparts.

“In response to the serious allegations, Director Vigneault stated that Canada and its allies require accountability from the Government of India concerning its potential involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.”

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