There can be no doubt that Canada’s national security adviser was telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, when he appeared before a parliamentary committee on Monday, in an attempt to clear up the Jaspal Atwal affair.
But Daniel Jean was explicit that he could not tell MPs the whole truth, because much of it remains classified.
The upshot was that Jean revealed fewer details on the events surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India than he did at the time to journalists (including this one).
Jean said he elected to give certain journalists a background briefing in February on convicted attempted-murderer Atwal’s appearance at a reception in Mumbai to counter a “false narrative.”
Atwal posed for a photo with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in Mumbai and was invited to another event at Canada’s embassy in New Delhi by Liberal MP Randeep Sarai. An article in the Vancouver Sun about Atwal’s presence at the event asked how someone with his criminal and Sikh separatist past could be cleared to attend official functions in India.
Jean said this is what prompted him to call a handful of journalists in Ottawa the next day to offer an alternative to what he suggested was “co-ordinated misinformation” – that the RCMP, CSIS and the Canadian High Commission were aware of Atwal’s invitations to the events but did not act to rescind them.
Jaspal Atwal arrives to read a statement to reporters in Vancouver in March.
“I never raised a conspiracy theory,” he said. “What I said is that there was co-ordinated efforts to try to misinform and I said these were either private people – it was definitely not the government of India, and if it was people from India, they were acting in a rogue way.”
Atwal was a one-time member of the International Sikh Youth Federation – now listed as a terrorist entity by Ottawa – who was convicted in 1987 of trying to kill a Punjab cabinet minister vacationing in B.C.
However, he is no longer considered a terrorist threat by Canada or India.
The issue for the security services was more that Atwal’s presence was an embarrassment. “It was a faux pas. It should not have happened,” Jean told the committee.
He offered a much less fulsome account than the one he gave me on February 22nd, when he alleged Atwal’s presence in India “was not an accident”.
He said Atwal had developed links with the Indian government, as his views …read more