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Nova Scotia Sikh community outraged by death of international student, calls it hate crime

A candlelight vigil for Prabhjot Singh Katri is scheduled for Friday evening in Truro

The Sikh community in Truro, N.S., is continuing to search for answers after the weekend death of a 23-year-old man that investigators are calling a homicide.

Officers found international student Prabhjot Singh Katri early on Sept. 5 with life-threatening injuries. He was transported to the hospital where he later died.

Singh Katri was paying for his education by driving a taxi in Nova Scotia.

“He was the bread earner in the family, or one of the main bread earners of the family, and he was supposed to take care of his mother and sister,” said Hasmeet Singh of the Maritime Bhangra Group.

“Something like this was never predicted or was something that you would never expect.”

Friends and family say Singh Katri was a quiet man who didn’t do drugs or drink.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Friday evening in Truro.

“We are all praying for Prabhjot and seeking justice for the loss of his life,” said the Maritime Sikh Society in Facebook post. “We are all members of a large human family, a community, despite our colour, race, appearance or beliefs.

“We will be respectful and cordial to each other despite the anger, frustration and fear that some are experiencing.”

On Tuesday, Truro police Chief David MacNeil called Singh Katri “a hardworking and kind, humble young man with a bright future ahead of him.

“The community is outraged. We’re outraged by this and we’re working hard to bring a resolution to Mr. Singh’s family and friends.”

The story made headlines in India this week, with coverage in a handful of online news outlets.

Police detained one suspect but later released them without charge. MacNeil said he could not comment on whether the police are investigating other persons of interest.

A fundraiser to return Singh Katri’s body to his parents in India has so far raised more than $85,000.

In a release, the High Commission of India in Ottawa said it was “shocked and saddened by the senseless killing,” and urged the Canadian government to protect Indian nationals - particularly students - from racially motivated crimes.

Canadian politician Sonia Sidhu, an MP for Brandon South in Ontario, tweeted that it was “an unacceptable act of hate.”

Nova Scotia’s Sikh community is also calling it a hate crime, but that’s a label the police won’t yet apply.

“We’re working with the community to try and alleviate some of the fears which are very real and understandable and I sympathize with that, however at this point in the investigation we’re not prepared to speculate on motive,” MacNeil said.

“There’s no way that we’re blaming it on the larger community in itself but whoever did it, I’m not sure what they were thinking.”

The investigation is ongoing. The police service is now working with the RCMP’s Northeast Nova Major Crime Unit and its forensics identification section.

With files from The Canadian Press

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