Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atwal Says Politicians from Different Parties Call Him Seeking Help

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Atwal Says Politicians from Different Parties Call Him Seeking Help

Article excerpt

Atwal says politicians call him seeking his help

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SURREY, B.C. - A man at the centre of a controversy over Sikh separatism that is hounding the prime minister says he has worked with politicians from a number of parties since he was released from prison for the attempted assassination of an Indian cabinet minister.

Jaspal Atwal said he has asked his social network in Surrey, B.C., to vote for different politicians because he supports what they are trying to achieve in his community.

After working to rebuild his reputation following the 1986 attempt on the cabinet minister's life, Atwal said he's frustrated that some of those who have asked for help have turned on him in public.

"If I'm that dangerous, then why the hell are they calling me?" Atwal said in an interview with the Canadian Press on Saturday. He declined another interview on Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office has distanced itself from Atwal, saying he is not a "friend" of Trudeau, after Atwal was invited to a pair of events during Trudeau's recent official visit to India.

Atwal said the pair once sat together in Atwal's Hummer, about nine years ago, and the prime minister knows him by name. While he called it a "good relationship," he said he did not consider Trudeau a "friend."

He said Trudeau has never asked him for help on a campaign.

Atwal was convicted of attempting to kill Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu during a visit to Vancouver Island. 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.

New Democrat Jinny Sims and former Liberal legislature member Brenda Locke both asked for his help in the 2017 B.C. election, Atwal said.

Sims, who is now minister of citizens' services, denied the claim in a statement, saying she has met Atwal but she does not know him well and has never invited him to campaign for her.

"During campaigns, extensive outreach for volunteers takes place including through mass messages. It is possible that Mr. Atwal has received such a message, however it would not have been at my request," Sims said. …

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