Canadian National Security Advisor Daniel Jean on Monday said there had been a “coordinated effort” to spread misinformation about how a convicted Khalistani militant had been invited to official receptions in India during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the country in Feburary, the National Post reported.
Jaspal Atwal – a member of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation – was convicted for trying to kill Punjab Cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver Island in 1986. He was sent to 20 years in prison. He has also been convicted in an automobile fraud case.
The Khalistani militant attended a dinner hosted in honour of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Mumbai on February 20. An invitation to another dinner reception – at the Canadian High Commissioner’s home in New Delhi on February 22 – was rescinded after it led to a furore.
Jean said Liberal MP Randeep Sarai had extended the invitation to Atwal in error, CBC News reported. Jean emphasised that even though Atwal was no longer considered a security threat, his “presence at an official tour event could be considered embarrassing”, CBC News reported.
Controversy followed after an unidentified Canadian government official briefed reporters who were covering the prime minister’s India visit , CBC News reported. Jean, appearing before a House of Commons committee on Monday, admitted he was the official who had spoken to the media.
“At that time, Jean suggested India’s intelligence service might have had an incentive to remove Atwal from India’s blacklist of Sikh extremists and allow him to enter the country to embarrass Trudeau for being soft on Sikh separatism,” the National Post reported.
On Monday, Jean told the committee: “There was coordinated efforts to try to misinform, and I said that 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.”
He added that there were inaccurate reports that Atwal was part of the prime minister’s delegation.
“It was a faux pas, it should not have happened,” Jean said. “They were trying to make that faux pas a lot bigger by fabricating false stories. My intervention was to debunk that.”