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Canadian newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer was shot to death outside of his home in Surrey, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia home on the evening of 18 November, according to the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists (CCPJ).

Hayer, who published the "Indo-Canadian Times", Canada's largest and oldest Punjabi weekly, was an outspoken critic of violent Sikh fundamentalists and had already been the target of an assassination attempt at his newspaper office in 1988. At the time, he was left partially paralysed, and when he was killed, he was getting into his wheelchair from his car.

Just a week ago, the publisher said in an interview that he was not concerned by ongoing threats on his life. "If they get me, they get me. There's nothing I can do and I'm not going to stop my work," he said.

Hayer's son, Sukhdev Hayer, went back to the newspaper office after the shooting to write a special report about the killing, saying it was important to continue publishing because his father had fought for press freedom in Canada. He said, "He always said if they were going to kill him for what he published so be it."

According to news reports, Sukhdev Hayer believes the killer was trying to frighten people prior to upcoming Sikh temple elections in Vancouver and Abbotsford because they feared moderates would win. Sikh moderates and friends of Hayer said police took little action against the threats and violence of fundamentalists in the region.

Bikar Singh Dhillon, a former Temple president and victim of a 1991 assassination attempt, said, "There have been rumours of hitmen in town for weeks and police have done nothing." Police have since set up a hotline for tips on the murder and authorities are pursuing the investigation aggressively. According to the CCPJ, "This is the first such case of a journalist murdered specifically for his work in Canada in this century."

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