Convicted attempted murderer invited to state dinner with Trudeau in India
Jaspal Atwal, a convicted former member of an illegal Sikh separatist group, was invited to dine with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a formal event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner Thursday in Delhi.
The invitation, which was extended by Canada's High Commissioner to India, is being rescinded after CBC News asked the Prime Minister's Office about it.
"I can confirm that the High Commission is in the process of rescinding Mr. Atwal's invitation," said PMO spokeswoman Eleanore Catenaro in an email to CBC News.
Photos obtained by CBC News show Atwal posing for pictures with Trudeau's wife, Sophie, and Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi at an event with the Indian film industry in Mumbai on Tuesday.
His appearance at an official tour event could prove highly embarrassing for Trudeau, who has been at pains during his Indian trip to assure his hosts that Canada supports a united India and rejects violent extremism.
Atwal, who did not travel to India with the Trudeaus' entourage, was convicted of the attempted murder of an Indian cabinet minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, on Vancouver Island in 1986.
At the time, he was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, banned as a terrorist group in Canada, the U.K., the U.S. and India.
He's also been convicted in an automobile fraud case and was charged, but not convicted, in a 1985 near-fatal attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, an opponent of the Sikh separatist movement who later became premier of British Columbia.
Trudeau arrived in Mumbai Monday evening and stayed for a number of meetings on Tuesday before travelling to Amritsar and Delhi.
On Wednesday in Delhi, Trudeau firmly insisted that he rejects Sikh extremism.
It is not clear how Atwal got onto the guest lists at both the Mumbai and Delhi events. The Prime Minister's Office said it would not comment on security matters.
Atwal was one of four men who ambushed and shot at Sidhu's car on a rural road on Vancouver Island in 1986, badly wounding him.
More recently, the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia won a $28,000 judgment against Atwal over a stolen car ring involving Atwal's son, Vik, and dozens of others.
Atwal has denied any involvement in the attack on Dosanjh, but admits his role in the attempt to assassinate Sidhu.
Trudeau has been under pressure throughout his India tour to answer Indian concerns about Sikh separatism in Canada. On Wednesday, he was asked about the public display of "martyr" posters honouring Talwinder Parmar, the leader of the 1985 Air India bomb plot, which took 331 lives.
"I do not think we should ever be glorifying mass-murderers," Trudeau said, "and I'm happy to condemn that."
A provincial Liberal staffer in B.C. resigned after giving Atwal a ticket to attend the delivery of the provincial budget in 2012.