Trudeau Backs Official Who Blamed India For Sikh Extremist’s Presence

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA — During Tuesday’s Question Period in the House of Commons, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sided with an official who blamed India for an embarrassing moment in his host country.

On Wednesday, India called that claim “baseless.”

Trudeau spent more than a week in India on an official visit that was fraught with diplomatic problems and lampooned by the international media. When he wasn’t posing in an elaborate series of traditional Indian fashions, he was trying to explain how a convicted terrorist,who tried to kill an Indian cabinet minister, managed to join him at a dinner.

Last week, a senior government official who requested anonymity suggested the presence of Jaspal Atwal was a result of “rogue elements” in the Indian government who were seeking to embarrass Canada.

On Tuesday, the official opposition Conservatives revealed the name of that official — National Security Advisor Daniel Jean — and asked Trudeau whether he believed the conspiracy theory.

“A senior security official made these allegations. Does the prime minister agree or disavow those allegations?” asked Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau defended Jean as a non-partisan public servant who does his job professionally. He tried to turn the tables on the Conservatives by suggesting the previous government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper had “torqued the public service every possible way they could.”

Then Trudeau confirmed that he accepted Jean’s explanation for the terrorist’s presence, saying the Conservatives “do not understand that our professional, non-partisan public service does high quality work. And when one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true.”

On Wednesday, the Indian government shot back their response to Trudeau’s remarks, calling the assertion “baseless and unacceptable.”

The Indian ministry of external affairs said there is absolutely no evidence that anyone in its government conspired to introduce Atwal to Trudeau’s trip. Atwal was convicted for the 1986 attempted murder of a prominent Indian politician that Sikh extremists wanted to kill.

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