Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned last week from a junket to India. The trip was highlighted by the revelation that one of the honored guests invited by the Liberals to a state reception in Mumbai was Jaspal Atwal, a Sikh separatist convicted of “an act of terrorism” by a Canadian judge in 1986 for an attempt to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister during a visit to Vancouver Island. Atwal was also charged a year earlier with an attack on former British Columbia Premier and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, but was later acquitted.
It seems no one vetted Mr. Atwal before extending Trudeau’s invitation to attend a state dinner at the official residence of the high commissioner of Canada to India. Despite the fact that Atwal, given his questionable background, should have never been allowed to get near the Prime Minister or his family.
No matter. Atwal shmoozed with the high ranking dignitaries and even snatched the obligatory photo-op with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie.
The journalists and commenters at Indian newspapers were not amused. The majority of India’s vast population support a united India. Trudeau compounded the problem when he tried to shift the blame for Atwal’s questionable invite to the Indian government. This brought an angry response from the Times of India, calling the charges “baseless and unacceptable.”
At home, former British Columbia Premier Ujjal Dosanjh agreed, tweeting on February 21: “What? Do we (the Canadian government) have no shame? Khalistan has seeped deep into the veins of this (Trudeau) administration.”
Fortunately, there were no bombings, assassinations or wardrobe malfunctions during Trudeau’s eight day visit. Just the goofy photos of Trudeau and company in Bollywood costumes and photo ops of the adorable Trudeau children playing grass hockey with equally adorable Indian street urchins.
Yesterday, Trudeau’s trademark sartorial virtue-signaling came under criticism on a Global News broadcast, when the owner of a tony Vancouver South Asian clothier politely suggested that Trudeau really needed the services of a professional Indian wardrobe consultant. In other words, Trudeau’s garb of choice was not particularly tasteful. Ouch. It’s one thing to criticize a head of state for his foreign policy blunders, but quite another for his lack of style.
Writing in Canada’s National Post, veteran Canadian journalist Rex Murphy summed it up succinctly: “The PM goes on a goodwill tour of India. The tour is a major flop. The PM blames India.”
So there you have it. For this and other failures, the Canadian press has labeled the trip, “The Bengal Bungle.”
We live in a humorless, dangerous world. Detached irony has replaced real humor. Canadian politics have always been feisty, but never as polarizing as they are today.
To be fair, there is nothing Justin Trudeau said on his trip that is particularly lampooonable. That’s too bad. We can all use a good laugh now and then.
Things were different when Joe Clark was elected prime minister in 1979, defeating Justin’s father and becoming the youngest (40) prime minister in the history of Canada.
Joe Clark was a Mike Pence-ian kind of politician. A Progressive Conservative from the conservative province of Alberta, Clark was honest, smart and ambitious. Ahead of his time, too. Clark was an early supporter of the decriminalization of marijuana, a guaranteed income for all Canadians and crafted a Freedom of Information Act that came into force in July, 1983.
Clark championed transparency before it was trendy.
Alas, Joe Clark’s public persona was perceived as clumsy and given to malapropisms. Even though he was a lawyer, an accomplished debater and bilingual, the Canadian press had a field day focusing on Clark’s missteps. Clark was no match in the public arena for his predecessor, the urbane and colorful Pierre Trudeau and his groupie-like following of Trudeaumaniacs.
In the early days of his administration, Clark embarked on the obligatory “fact finding” trip to Israel, Jordan, Japan and India to establish his geopolitical gravitas.
Dubbed by the Canadian press as, “Around the World in 80 Gaffes,” the trip was a public relations disaster from the beginning.
Shortly after leaving, the prime minister’s entourage missed a flight connection and Clark lost his luggage.
In Israel, while inspecting an honor guard, Clark almost stumbled into a soldier’s bayonet, giving rise to early news reports that he had been beheaded.
While visiting a dirt-poor farmer in India, Clark asked the farmer, “What is the totality of your acreage?” To which the farmer replied, “You’re standing on it, sir.” Clark followed up with a supplementary question, “How old are your chickens?” And so on.
These gentle mistakes seem quaint through the prism of history. At least there were no bombings or assassination attempts. And back in those days, beheadings of Christians were rare, accidental or otherwise.
When Clark returned home, he was pilloried in Parliament by the Opposition Liberal Party and particularly by Pierre Trudeau. The lost baggage jokes went on for weeks.
Looking back, the hilarity would have been deafening if Clark, in attempting to honor the culture of Jordan, had dressed up like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.
Fortunately, Clark did not have the audacity to do that.
The Indian press would have to wait for Justin Trudeau’s visit—38 years later—to poke fun at a Canadian prime minister.
Later development, March 8.
Jaspal Atwal lawyer says media has ‘obsession’ with client, criticizes reporter for asking questions https://globalnews.ca/news/4070833/jaspal-atwal-justin-trudeau-india-4/
March 22, 2018
Vancouver Metro News Report, Thursday, March 22 (page 8) “Singh Makes Position Clear”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh categorically condemned political violence on Wednesday, and said he won’t attend any event where he knows someone will advocate violence as a political tool. Quoting Singh’s statement, which reads:
“Let’s make it really clear. I think it’s an important question. I condemn political violence absolutely, no question about that. It’s something that’s unacceptable. It divides people. It hurts people. It does not advance justice. It does not build a better society. I have never attended an event where the goal was to advance political violence, nor would I ever.”
The statement was in response to reports last week in Canada’s Globe and Mail and National Post, showing videos of Singh speaking at Sikh separatist events when he was deputy leader of the Ontario NDP.
Kudos for Jagmeet Singh for speaking out on this issue.
March 23 - link to Global Mail article about all night parliament meeting related to this Atwal controversy.