Special report into the allegations associated with Prime Minister Trudeau’s official visit to India in February 2018

1. On January 22, 2018, the Prime Minister announced that he would travel from February 17 to 24 on an official visit to India. His delegation included six Ministers and was accompanied by 16 Parliamentarians, who travelled independently to India to participate in portions of the itinerary. The trip included numerous meetings with local, state and national officials, business contacts and community groups at multiple locations in five cities.

2. On February 20, Jaspal Atwal attended a reception in Mumbai hosted by the Prime Minister as an invited guest of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). There he was photographed with the Prime Minister’s spouse, a Minister and a Member of Parliament. Those photographs surfaced in Indian and Canadian media and raised questions of how Mr. Atwal, convicted of the attempted murder of a Punjab Minister and with a past association with Sikh extremism in Canada, could have been invited to the event in Mumbai and to a reception planned in Delhi on February 22. Acting on information provided after the Mumbai event, the Prime Minister’s Office directed Global Affairs Canada to rescind Mr. Atwal’s invitation for the Delhi reception, which it did on February 21.

3. In response to these events, the National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) briefed Canadian journalists on background as a ‘senior government official’ first to journalists in Canada on February 22 and then to Canadian journalists accompanying the Prime Minister’s delegation in India on February 23. In his briefing, the NSIA suggested that the media release of information about Mr. Atwal was being orchestrated, potentially by factions of the Indian intelligence community.

4. The Government subsequently faced criticism of the comments made by the NSIA, identified as the source of the media briefing, in the House of Commons. On March 1, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness suggested in a media scrum that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP, hereafter, ‘the Committee’) could conduct a review of the issue. On the same day, the Committee was briefed by the NSIA and other senior officials from the security and intelligence community, at the request of the NSIA. On March 28, the Senate of Canada amended a motion stating that the Committee may be an appropriate forum to review the security and intelligence operating procedures in relation to diplomatic and foreign visits involving the Government of Canada.

5. The Committee considered the various allegations raised in the context of the Prime Minister’s visit to India. These allegations related to foreign interference in Canadian political affairs, risks to the security of the Prime Minister, and inappropriate use of intelligence. The Committee believed that these allegations were serious, could have important implications for Canada’s national security and sovereignty, and fell under the purview of the Committee’s mandate. On April 5, the Committee unanimously decided to conduct a special review of these allegations, pursuant to Section 21(2) of the NSICOP Act.

6. On April 9, the Chair of the Committee notified the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of the Committee’s review, consistent with Section 15(1) of the NSICOP Act. The terms of reference for the review were provided to the Privy Council Office (PCO), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Global Affairs Canada on the same day, with a deadline for information to be provided to the Committee Secretariat of April 20 (see Annex A). The Committee Secretariat subsequently met officials from each department to clarify what information was required.

7. On April 20, the Secretariat received over 2400 pages of documents. Those documents included a wide range of materials, most of which were classified as Secret or Top Secret, including:

  • Briefing notes and emails;
  • ***;
  • Trip and contact reports;
  • Intelligence assessments and reports; and
  • ***.

8. Aside from their classification, some of the documents contained extremely sensitive information about ***. They also included names of Canadians and Canadian Members of Parliament, and details of bilateral negotiations.

9. The Secretariat conducted an analysis of the information provided. It met and followed-up with the four relevant organizations numerous times to check facts and obtain further information, and received hundreds of pages of supplemental documents. On May 1, the Secretariat questioned senior CSIS officials. On May 3 and 7, the Committee met to consider the Secretariat’s interim report. On May 8, the committee questioned the Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Canada and his officials, and then the RCMP Deputy Commissioner of Federal Policing. On May 9, the Committee questioned the NSIA and other PCO officials. Committee hearings were recorded and detailed notes were taken, the latter of which were transcribed electronically. This report is based on the information provided by the organizations and the hearing held in the week of May 7, 2018.

10. The report is organized into three sections. The first addresses ***, and the circumstances surrounding allegations of foreign interference in the specific context of the Prime Minister’s trip to India in February 2018. The second reviews security issues surrounding the Prime Minister’s travel in India and what government organizations knew of Mr. Atwal before and after his appearance in India. The third section considers allegations of the inappropriate use of intelligence by the NSIA during that visit. Each section contains finding and recommendations.

11. The Committee recognizes that it had the benefit of hindsight when it considered why officials, particularly the NSIA, decided to take certain actions. The benefit of hindsight is a built-in feature of all review bodies when they consider the appropriateness of government actions in difficult circumstances. While the Committee appreciates the risks inherent in this situation, it also believes that it must understand the rationale for why officials acted in the way they did. When the NSIA briefed the Committee, at his request, on March 1, he devoted considerable time to explaining the rationale for his decisions related to the issues raised in this report. He did again when he returned to answer the Committee’s questions on May 9. In its findings and recommendations, the Committee tried to focus on the implications of certain decisions rather than on the merit of the decisions themselves.