‘The stupidest thing I ever saw’: Former BC Premier on Atwal invite to Trudeau events in India

Jaspal Atwal and Trudeau

Former B.C. Premier and ex-federal Liberal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh says it’s “mind-boggling” that a convicted attempted murderer could get so close to the Prime Minister of Canada.

“I was actually shocked,” Dosanjh tells The Evan Solomon Show after being asked about Jaspal Atwal’s appearance at an event in Mumbai, and the subsequent fiasco over his invitation to a reception at the Canadian High Commission to India. “I thought that was one of the stupidest things I ever saw, the most incompetent kind of thing one would do on a trip that is so sensitive for Canada to make to India.”

Photos surfaced online of Atwal standing with Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, and federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi. Another photo surfaced that appeared to show an invitation, addressed to Atwal, to an event at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.

Atwal was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, a banned terrorist organization in Canada and India, when he was convicted of attempting to kill Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986.

“He should have been vetted for security purposes by the RCMP, the PMO, and the High Commission,” Dosanjh says. “If he got through that, he shouldn’t have gotten through the political check. If, at your receptions, you have a man, a convicted attempted assassin, and then either an MP or someone else gets him through that and gets him on that list of invitees to these major receptions in Mumbai and in Delhi, that’s just mind-boggling.”

Trudeau's office said the invitation was a mistake and was rescinded as soon as Atwal was discovered on the guest list. Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, who represents the B.C. riding of Surrey Centre, and is one of the 14 MPs travelling with Trudeau on this trip, has admitted fault for adding Atwal’s name to the list.

Dosanjh says this shows the government is either incompetent or has a “total disregard” for their own security and for Canada-India relations.

Dosanjh has a personal connection to Atwal. In 1985, Atwal was charged, but never convicted, in a near-fatal attack on Dosanjh’s life.

“There was only one attacker and it was him,” Dosanjh says. “I had 84 stitches to my head and a couple of my fingers on my right hand had to be stitched back together because I tried to protect my head. The doctor told me, if it had gone any deeper, it could have done damage to my brain.”

Dosanjh says letting Atwal get so close to the Prime Minister has done “enormous damage to an already beleaguered trip.”

Trudeau had to profess his support for a united India after local journalists and pundits accused him of being soft on Sikh separatists.

Some critics have said Trudeau was being snubbed by Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, but Modi tweeted Thursday he “looks forward” to meeting Trudeau on Friday “and holding talks on further strengthening India-Canada relations in all spheres.”

“I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries,” Modi said.

With files from the Canadian Press.