Jaspal Atwal, right, speaks to his lawyer Rishi T. Gill during a news conference in downtown Vancouver, on Thursday, March, 8, 2018. Atwal said Thursday that since he was convicted of trying to kill an Indian cabinet minister in 1986, he has tried to contribute to Canadian society and those efforts include meeting politicians from various parties. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Atwal says he has renounced terrorism and asked to attend Trudeau India event

A man at the centre of a controversy surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to India says he has renounced terrorism

A man at the centre of a controversy surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to India says he has renounced terrorism and no longer advocates for Sikh separatism.

Jaspal Atwal said Thursday that since he was convicted of trying to kill an Indian cabinet minister in 1986, he has tried to contribute to Canadian society and those efforts include meeting politicians from various parties.

Atwal, 62, said he was one of many Sikhs who got “caught up” in the separatism movement almost 40 years ago.

“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 a way that has caused much pain to many individuals,” he told a news conference at his lawyer’s office in Vancouver.

“I have nothing but regret and remorse for my actions.”

Related: Jaspal Atwal says he’s ‘shocked and devastated’ by media attention in India scandal

Before he recently left for a trip to India, Atwal said he contacted Liberal MP Randeep Sarai to see if there was a chance for him to attend a reception with Trudeau.

Atwal went to the reception in Mumbai and was photographed with Trudeau’s wife, causing a political and diplomatic uproar. An invitation Atwal received to another reception in New Delhi was rescinded as soon as news broke that he was on the guest list.

Atwal said he received an invitation from the Canadian ambassador after asking Sarai.

“When my attendance became the news story that brings us here today, I was completely shocked and devastated,” he said. “When I asked to consider attending the reception, I had assumed there would be no problem. No one at any point indicated there would be any issue.”

The fallout has been difficult for him and his family, said Atwal, who lives in Surrey, B.C.

“In the end, I am sorry for the embarrassment this matter has caused to Canada, India, my community and family and friends,” he added.

“However, I want to again stress this, that terrible event that happened in the past is something I live with every day and something that I take complete responsibility for. I, like the Sikh community and Indians generally, have moved on from the issue that divided us almost 40 years ago.”

In a previous interview with The Canadian Press, Atwal said he received an invitation directly from the Canadian ambassador’s office.

He said he had a “good relationship” with Trudeau, who knows him by name. The pair sat together in Atwal’s Hummer and chatted during one of Trudeau’s visits to B.C. in 2008 or 2009, he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office has said there is no merit to the assertions by Atwal.

Related: B.C. MP apologizes for inviting criminal to Trudeau reception

During Trudeau’s trip to India, the prime minister’s national security adviser suggested in a background briefing arranged by the PMO that Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government who want to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India.

An official spokesman for the Indian ministry has repudiated that theory.

Atwal’s lawyer, Rishi Gill, said his client was never in contact with anyone from the Indian government to act on its behalf.

“He basically went to this occasion, put his name in, he assumes he was vetted appropriately, he has not hid who he was, he has not changed his name,” he said. “If you Google Mr. Atwal you find information about him. It’s not as if the fact the events that occurred, again, almost four decades ago were not in the news.”

Sarai took responsibility for inviting Atwal and apologized, before resigning as chair of the party’s B.C. caucus.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Atwal’s comments raise question about the prime minister’s version of events during the trip to India.

“The government of India, Randeep Sarai, and Jaspal Atwal, have all refuted Justin Trudeau’s theory that Mr. Atwal was planted at the prime minister’s events in India, in an effort by the Indian government to humiliate Justin Trudeau,” he said in a statement.

“By continuing to support a conspiracy theory that is unsupported by any proof and has been met only with denials by those alleged to be involved, Justin Trudeau is making unsubstantiated allegations to distract attention from his disastrous India trip.”

Atwal, a one-time member of a Sikh separatist group that is banned in Canada and India as a terrorist organization, was convicted of attempting to kill Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986.

He was also charged, but not convicted, in 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.

Atwal said he has met and been photographed with New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, and has travelled to India without restriction.

Related: Atwal says he bowed out of event to save Trudeau embarrassment

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Tl’azt’en man emerges strong from leukemia struggle

“You have to find that inner you and fight back,” Darren says

WANTED: Five sought by RCMP

Police asking for public’s assistance finding five people on outstanding warrants.

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Kids found playing darts with syringes in Vancouver Island park

Saanich police is urging people to throw out their syringes properly and safely

Most Read