Sikh Separatist Apologizes for Embarrassing Canadian Govt During Trudeau’s India Visit

Jaspal Atwal was photographed with Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau during the Canadian prime minister's recent India visit.


Jaspal Atwal, the convicted terrorist who was photographed with Canadian Prime  Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, apologized for the embarrassment caused to the country’s government because of the photo, which led to a controversy in India. The photo was taken with Atwal in Mumbai during Trudeau’s recent India visit. The Sikh separatist was sentenced to 20 years in jail for attempt to kill Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986.

In a press conference in Vancouver, Canada, Atwal renounced his Khalistani past and said that he was a reformed man. He said that he did not expect such an uproar over his photo with Sophie.

“I was completely shocked and devastated,” he said reading from a prepared statement, according to the National Post. “I am sorry for any embarrassment this matter has caused.”

He further read from a statement that “like many other Sikhs, (he) became caught up in a movement supporting an independent Sikh nation. While nothing can excuse my conduct, I can only say that during that time in the early 1980s, I reacted to the Indian Army storming the Golden Temple in Amritsar in a way that has caused much pain to many individuals.”

Atwal said he had “nothing but regret and remorse” for what the judge deemed to be an “act of terror.”

He added: “I again renounce any form of terrorism. I do not advocate in any sense for an independent Sikh nation. I, like the vast majority of Sikhs who once advocated for this cause, have reconciled with the nation of India.”

Atwal was arrested and convicted in 1987 for attempting to assassinate Sidhu, who was in Canada on a personal matter. He was given parole in 1993 for showing “exemplary” behavior. Atwal’s lawyer Rishi Gill also released Atwal’s passport pages which show he was given three travel visas to India in 2017, for a month, three months and one year, respectively.

“The one country that was directly affected by the (assassination attempt) that occurred was India. … India has let him back in the country to visit,” Gill said.

Trudeau also acknowledged after the debacle that Atwal shouldn’t have been invited, and Randeep Sarai, Liberal MP for Surrey Centre, took the blame for the invitation.

Atwal, 62, told reporters that before leaving for India he had asked Sarai if he could be part of the reception for the Trudeau in India and was later given an invitation by the Canadian Ambassador.

“(Atwal) reached out to Mr. Sarai very casually and said, ‘If there’s a possibility of me going I would like to go.’ That was the end of it,” Gill added. “It was no more controversial than that.” The lawyer added that the Canadian security officials did not approach Atwal for vetting.

Trudeau’s visit to India was fraught with problems, starting with his arrival in the country. It was speculated that he received cold shoulder from the Indian government because of his soft approach to Sikh extremism growing in Canada against India. Atwal’s photo and presence at the event further led to outrage.

Meanwhile, Atwal’s press conference also gave rise to criticism after Gill did not allow journalists to ask questions.

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