Security adviser tried to dispel misinformation
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser says it’s the Canadian government’s fault that a convicted attempted assassin was invited to events with the prime minister during his troubleplagued trip to India.
But Daniel Jean pointed Monday to a “co-ordinated misinformation” campaign about the gaffe to justify his controversial assertion that factions in India tried to sabotage Trudeau’s February visit.
Jean was testifying before the House of Commons public safety and national security committee about a background briefing he gave reporters during the trip, in which he suggested rogue elements in India were behind the embarrassing revelation that Jaspal Atwal had been invited to two events with Trudeau. Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 during a visit to British Columbia, was photographed at one event in Mumbai with the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. His invitation to a second event was rescinded after news of his presence broke.
During the media briefing, Jean advanced the theory that rogue factions in India may have arranged for Atwal’s attendance in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from becoming too cosy with a foreign government they believe is sympathetic to extremist Sikh separatists. On Monday, Jean acknowledged there would not have been a scandal had Liberal MP Randeep Sarai not asked for Atwal to be added to the guest list or if the names on that list had been vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“It was a faux pas. It should not have happened,” he told the committee. But he added: “There were people who were trying ... to make that faux pas a lot bigger by fabricating false stories and my intervention was to debunk that.”
Once news of Atwal’s presence surfaced, Jean said there appeared to be a co-ordinated campaign to peddle false stories that Atwal was a member of the Canadian delegation and that the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian High Commission in India had all been alerted to his presence on the guest list days earlier but had done nothing. He cited incorrect reports by both Indian and Canadian media. It was those false reports, he said, that prompted his decision to brief reporters.