OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser — the man who suggested factions in India sabotaged the prime minister’s trip there in February — has announced his retirement.
Daniel Jean will be stepping down on May 22.
He informed the clerk of the Privy Council in January of his intention to retire — more than a month before controversy erupted over Trudeau’s trouble-plagued trip to India, according to a Privy Council spokesperson.
Jean, a veteran diplomat and former deputy minister of foreign affairs, has served as Trudeau’s national security adviser since May 2016.
He’s been at the centre of a political uproar since giving a background briefing to reporters in which he suggested rogue factions in the Indian government were behind the embarrassing revelation that a convicted attempted assassin had been invited to two prime ministerial events during Trudeau’s India trip.
Jaspal Atwal, a B.C. Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 during a visit to British Columbia, was photographed at one event in Mumbai with the prime minister’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau; his invitation to a second event was rescinded after news of his presence broke.
During the briefing, Jean advanced the theory that rogue factions in India arranged for Atwal’s presence in a bid to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from becoming too cosy with a foreign government they believe is sympathetic to extremist Sikh separatists.
At the time, reports attributed the theory to a senior government official, but the Conservatives quickly outed Jean as the official in question.
During an appearance last week before a House of Commons committee, Jean acknowledged there would not have been a scandal had Liberal MP Randeep Sarai not asked for Atwal to be added to the guest list or if the names on that list had been vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office.
But once news of Atwal’s presence surfaced, he said there appeared to be a co-ordinated misinformation campaign to peddle false stories that Atwal was a member of the Canadian delegation and that the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian High Commission in India had all been alerted to his presence on the guest list days earlier but had done nothing.
It was those false reports in Canadian and Indian media, he said, that prompted his decision to brief reporters.
“I think that if you have actors who are trying to fabricate a narrative that is totally untrue and are using three of our most respected public institutions to do that, I think there has to be someone who is neutral who can come in and alert the media on that. That’s why I did it,” he told the committee.