Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Jaspal Atwal pictured at what appears to be a film industry influencers event with Indian film stars in Mumbai on Feb. 20. (Submitted)

Atwal affair continues to plague Trudeau Liberals


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back from his trip to India but the Liberal government continues to face questions about how a man convicted of attempted murder of an Indian politician wound up invited to a prime ministerial event there.

Jaspal Atwal was convicted of attempting to kill Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in British Columbia in 1986.

He was also charged, but not convicted, in connection with a 1985 attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, a staunch opponent of the Sikh separatist movement, who later became B.C. premier and a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

The discovery of Atwal on the guest list for an official reception held by the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi nearly derailed Trudeau’s visit to India, where Sikh separatism is a very sensitive issue.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the invitation to Atwal was immediately rescinded, while Atwal says he stayed away from the event to save Trudeau from further embarrassment.

Justin Trudeau’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, left, pictured with Atwal in Mumbai Feb. 20. (Name of person who submitted photo withheld upon request)

British Columbia Liberal MP Randeep Sarai has shouldered the blame for the snafu, saying in a statement that it was his choice alone to include Atwal on the guest list, and he realized afterward that he had exercised poor judgment in doing so.

Atwal’s presence in India has also raised questions in that country about how the British Columbia-based businessman was able to get an Indian visa given his criminal record.

Indian conspiracy?

On Friday, a government official, discussing the matter on condition of anonymity, suggested Atwal’s presence was engineered by rogue elements within the Indian government to embarrass Trudeau and to distance New Delhi from Ottawa, driven by concerns that Canada is not fully committed to a united India.

The official suggested that Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government who believe Canada is being too soft on Sikh separatists.

The factions wanted to undermine Trudeau’s tour to prevent the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with foreign governments they believe want to undermine Indian unity, the official said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extends his hand for a handshake with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau during Trudeau’s ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, February 23, 2018. (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS)

The official spoke by phone to reporters travelling with Trudeau during a briefing arranged by the Prime Minister’s Office. He said Canadian security officials received a tip from intelligence sources within Canada on Wednesday morning that Atwal had been at a reception in Mumbai with the prime minister on Tuesday evening.

During question period in the House of Commons on Monday the opposition went after the governing Liberals, seeking answers about this conspiracy theory.

“This is a very serious allegation,” said Conservative MP Candice Bergen, House Leader of the Official Opposition. “What proof does the prime minister have that the government of India did this?”

(click to listen to the exchange)


Answering for Trudeau, who was absent during question period, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale skated around the question.

“Mr. Speaker, I can say that the invitation that was issued to this particular individual, Mr. Atwal, should never have been issued and, indeed, as soon as it was discovered, it was rescinded by the government of Canada,” Goodale said, answering the question from the opposition.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in International, Politics

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.