OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — A stunning oversight that allowed a man convicted of attempted murder to be invited to a party in India with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is prompting many to say the Trudeau government is too close to Sikh separatists.
Former Cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh has long accused his old party of being too friendly to Sikh separatists but said Thursday that the invitation of Jaspal Atwal to a reception was the last straw.
Atwal was convicted of attempting to kill an Indian Cabinet minister in Canada in 1986. He was also charged, but not convicted, in connection with a 1985 attack on Dosanjh, a staunch opponent of the Sikh separatist movement's push for an independent state of Khalistan.
Trudeau's office said the invitation was a mistake and was rescinded as soon as Atwal was discovered on the guest list. However, he showed up at a reception earlier in the week in Mumbai and was photographed with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the prime minister's wife.
Dosanjh said Canada-India relations have hit "rock bottom." Dosanjh said he couldn't believe what he was seeing when he saw the photograph and wondered how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Trudeau's office and Canadian officials in India could be blind to it.
Atwal was added to the guest list by British Columbia Liberal party lawmaker Randeep Sarai, one of 14 members of Parliament in India with Trudeau. Sarai has acknowledged he should have used better judgment.
Trudeau's turbulent trip to India has drawn criticism from the opposition lawmakers and raised eyebrows internationally.
Trudeau had to profess his support for a united India after meeting with the chief minister of Punjab, who had accused the prime minister of appointing Sikh separatists to his Cabinet. And some critics insist Trudeau is being snubbed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even though the two are to meet on Friday.
Modi tweeted Thursday that he is looking forward to meeting Trudeau and that he appreciated "his deep commitment to ties between our two countries."
But David Mulroney, a prominent former Canadian diplomat, said Modi's decision to wait five days to meet Trudeau is a deliberate demonstration of his displeasure over Canada's handling of the Sikh issue.