Indians carried out 'disinformation campaign' during Trudeau trip, implies Canadian intelligence
By Barfi Culture Team
5th December 2018

Canadian intelligence officials have strongly implied that Indian officials 'interfered' in its domestic affairs during Justin Trudeau's trip to India in February this year.

They have also said that 'foreign actors' had tried to undermine the reputation of Canadian institutions during the trip by painting them as incompetent or under the influence of 'Sikh extremists'.

The explosive claims were made in a special report published this week (PDF), which was heavily redacted for national security reasons.

It is likely to cause some discomfort in New Delhi as it partially focused on what Canadian intelligence saw as "foreign interference in Canadian political affairs".

Moreover, in a major speech a day after the report was released, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said that "foreign interference" was now the "the greatest threat" to Canadian prosperity. The speech made no reference to the report but some saw it as a remarkable coincidence.

Why is the report significant?

Justin Trudeau's trip to India was mired in controversy even before he got on the plane in February 2018. More than one Indian publication claimed that 'Khalistani extremism' was on the rise in Canada and Trudeau's government was doing little to tackle it.

Once in India it emerged that a man named Jaspal Atwal, who had been convicted of attempted murder of an Indian minister in 1986, had been invited to an official reception in New Delhi during the trip. The invitation was immediately rescinded but the damage was done.

After he got home, Canadian Sikhs were angered that the media coverage of the trip linked them to terrorism without much nuance or understanding.

The report was commissioned in the aftermath to ask whether mistakes had been and whether concerns about 'foreign interference' were justified.

Some key findings

Ten out of the report's 18 findings, and three out of its five recommendations, were partially or completely redacted due to security reasons. But it still makes some significant points.

  • "According to a CSIS Intelligence Assessment, the threat from Sikh extremists in Canada peaked in the mid-1980s and declined thereafter."

  • Canadian and Indian officials met several times to "address more effectively India’s growing concerns regarding the rise of extremism".

  • It recommended that MPs and Senators be briefed regularly on the "risks of foreign interference and extremism in Canada".

  • "The conclusion of officials from the security and intelligence community that Mr. Atwal was not a threat was based on a narrow interpretation of risk that did not reflect his known criminal record or *** [redacted]"

  • 'Orchestrated disinformation campaign'

    The most explosive part of the report focuses on what happened after the trip.

    In a special briefing on 1st March, Canada's National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) said: "we came to the conclusion that there was a very high probability of an orchestrated disinformation campaign to tarnish Canada."

    The report found that: "The NSIA’s stated concern that foreign actors were undermining the reputation of 'respected public institutions' is understandable."

    The report also made this bombshell claim: "The 'strategically released' media articles prior to the Prime Minister’s visit and Indian officials’ repeated raising of concerns around Sikh extremism and separatism, even after multiple efforts by Canadian officials, including the NSIA, to refute those claims, fit the pattern that the NSIA now saw emerging: an orchestrated attempt to ‘shine a spotlight’ on Mr. Atwal’s invitation in order to embarrass the Canadian Government."

    It recommended that the PM "review" the role of the NSIA in the area of countering threats to the "security of Canada".

    What has the response been?

    The Indian High Commission in Canada has so far said nothing on the report. The opposition Conservative party focused on the number of redactions in the report than its findings.

    But the World Sikh Organization of Canada felt vindicated by the report. Its President Mukhbir Singh said:

    "It is clear that there is significant evidence to suggest that an orchestrated attempt took place to embarrass the Canadian government and also to malign the Sikh community with allegations of ‘Sikh extremism’. We believe this report is further indication that our elected officials and media must be critical and very wary with respect to allegations of Sikh extremism."

    "The reputation of the Sikh community in Canada has too often been maligned by unfounded allegations of rising Sikh extremism that originate from India. This is unacceptable and results in real harm to Canadian Sikhs. It was even more disappointing that many in the Canadian media reproduced these allegations without evidence or verification."

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