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'Shared intelligence' from Five Eyes informed Trudeau's India allegation: U.S. ambassador

There was "shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners" that informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's public allegation of a potential link between the government of India and the murder of a Canadian citizen, United States Ambassador to Canada David Cohen confirmed to CTV News.

In an exclusive interview on CTV's Question Period with Vassy Kapelos airing on Sunday, Cohen confirmed "there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the Prime Minister made."

On Monday, Trudeau informed the House of Commons in a rare statement on a matter of national security that Canadian intelligence agencies were investigating "credible allegations" that agents of the Indian government were involved in the June death of prominent Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in B.C.

In the days since, as diplomatic tensions continue to ratchet up — from Canada reassessing its staffing in India, to India suspending visa services for Canadians — there have been swirling questions about what intelligence is at the centre of this story, who was aware of it, and when.

While Cohen would not comment on whether the intelligence informing the Canadian government's investigation was both human and surveillance-based, or whether it included signals intelligence of Indian diplomats, the United States envoy to Canada said "there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the Prime Minister made."

Amid reports from CBC and The Associated Press that the intelligence Trudeau was speaking of did not come from Canada alone, and that additional information was provided by an unspecified member of the intelligence-sharing alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Cohen told Kapelos that there was "a lot of communication" between Ottawa and D.C.

He made this comment while denying a Washington Post report alleging that weeks before Trudeau's bombshell declaration, Ottawa asked its closest allies, including the U.S. to publicly condemn the murder and that overture was rebuffed.

"Very bluntly, I will say that — and you know me well enough — that I'm not in the habit of commenting on private diplomatic conversations," Cohen said. 

"Look, I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information," he added. "There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that's as far as I'm comfortable going."

Earlier this week, Trudeau told reporters that officials had been working closely with intelligence agencies since the summer to "make sure that we had solid grounding in understanding what was going on."

And, after raising the matter directly with allies and India on the sidelines of the G20, Trudeau said he felt that Canadians had the "right to know."

Speaking more broadly about how the U.S. interprets what has unfolded, and whether there is any hesitancy on the part of U.S. President Joe Biden's government to jump to Canada's defence. Cohen said that the U.S. "takes very seriously these allegations."

"And, you know, if they prove to be true, it is a potentially very serious breach of the rules-based international order in which we like to function," he said.

Officials in Washington have said that Biden's concern over the allegations has been expressed to India, and the U.S. has asked India to co-operate in Canada's investigation, according to the ambassador.

"We think it's very important to get to the bottom of it," Cohen said.

With files from CTV News Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos

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