Newspaper article The Canadian Press

RCMP Should Have Alerted PM's Protective Detail about Jaspal Atwal: Review

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

RCMP Should Have Alerted PM's Protective Detail about Jaspal Atwal: Review

Article excerpt

RCMP failed to alert PM on threat: Committee


OTTAWA - The RCMP should have alerted Justin Trudeau's protective detail that Jaspal Atwal -- a man with a serious criminal record and a history of violence -- might turn up during the prime minister's February trip to India, says a review of the turbulent visit.

The newly released report from the national-security committee of parliamentarians says the RCMP "recognizes that it erred" in not passing along the information about Atwal, who had been convicted of attempted murder years earlier.

The heavily censored report, tabled Monday in Parliament, says government agencies do not have a comprehensive system for vetting guest lists for foreign events involving the prime minister and have not conducted a "lessons learned" exercise to determine what they could do better.

Trudeau was embarrassed during the overseas trip when it was revealed that Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of trying to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986, had been invited to two events with the prime minister.

Atwal 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 then a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

Atwal was photographed with Trudeau's wife and at least one cabinet minister during a Feb. 20 event in Mumbai, and an invitation to a second event, in New Delhi, was rescinded after the news broke.

The committee report says the Mounties had information on Feb. 13 about Atwal's possible presence in India during Trudeau's visit.

"That information caused RCMP personnel to search criminal databases, revealing information that should have triggered the notification of the Prime Minister's Protective Detail and the briefing of senior officials: neither the Protective Detail nor officials were notified," the report says.

During closed-door testimony, the RCMP acknowledged that mistake and a failure to follow up on direction to determine Atwal's whereabouts, the report says.

It says a senior officer asked a special national-security unit in British Columbia to determine whether Atwal was in Canada, through a voicemail to an officer who was on leave.

Several days later, in an exchange whose details are redacted for security reasons, the same unit received some sort of information on Atwal, but because it was the end of a shift, the team "decided that it would wait until the next day to validate the information. …

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