It's time to stop digging, Justin.
(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)
By: Candice Malcolm
The fallout continues over Justin Trudeau’s disastrous and humiliating trip to India. The latest twist in this self-perpetuating tragedy is that the Government of India has accused our Prime Minister of making “baseless and unacceptable” claims.
A spokesperson for India’s Minister of External Affairs issued a fierce statement on Wednesday, categorically denying a claim made by Trudeau in the House of Commons.
During Question Period on Tuesday, opposition leader Andrew Scheer asked Trudeau about his office’s role in a bizarre claim from Canada’s top national security advisor Daniel Jean.
Jean gave a briefing to reporters last week where he alleged that “rogue political elements” in the Indian government “orchestrated” the invitation of convicted terrorist Jaspal Atwal to India in order to embarrass Trudeau.
It’s one of the most baffling claims ever made by a Canadian government.
And it comes in the face of Atwal’s own statement that he is friends with Trudeau, that they’ve known each other for over a decade. Unlike the “rogue political elements” conspiracy, Atwal has photographic evidence to back up his claims.
According to reporters who attended the national security briefing, Jean provided no evidence and carefully couched his words, saying “maybe” and “possibly” to avoid any direct claims.
Worse, journalists could only attend this briefing – organized by the Prime Minister’s Office – on the condition that they not name the source and promise to keep his identity anonymous. It was only because of the absurdity of his claims that we learned it was Jean, a non-partisan bureaucrat, doing the government’s dirty work.
Having a career civil servant peddle a conspiracy theory to try to save face after an embarrassing junket is bad enough. But by doubling down on these far-fetched claims, Trudeau has managed to make a very bad situation even worse.
In response to Scheer’s question about his office’s role in pushing these unsubstantiated claims, Trudeau said the accusation was levied against India because it is true.
“When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true,” said Trudeau.
The conspiracy suddenly went from a not-for-attribution background briefing from an anonymous security advisor to the official word of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Trudeau’s brash comment caught the attention of the central government in India.
“We have seen the recent exchange in the Parliament of Canada regarding two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal,” the statement reads. “Let me categorically state that the government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal … Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.”
Just days after Trudeau returned from a lavish eight-day tour of India, the world’s largest democracy and emerging economic powerhouse is slamming our Prime Minister and denying his claims.
Any hope that Canada could repair its relationship with India after Trudeau’s dreadful performance on the subcontinent has withered away. In trying to do damage control and shift blame away from Trudeau, the Prime Minister’s Office has dug itself into a very deep hole.
They’ve escalated this feud, gotten themselves into a war of words with an important ally, and undone any of the goodwill this taxpayer-funded visit to India was supposed to have created.
Trudeau needs to stop digging. He needs to stop repeating unproven claims and start providing some concrete evidence as to why he is blaming our allies in India for his own unforced blunder.