POLITICS
04/03/2018 12:14 EDT | Updated 04/04/2018 10:28 EDT

Andrew Scheer Accepts Liberal Offer Of Security Briefing On Jaspal Atwal Affair

The issue sparked an all-night vote last month.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks in the House of Commons on Feb. 28, 2018.
Chris Wattie / Reuters
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks in the House of Commons on Feb. 28, 2018.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has accepted the Liberal government's offer of a briefing on the Jaspal Atwal affair, but he has some conditions.

In a statement released Tuesday, Scheer said he told the government that he will invite members of his caucus and the media to attend the portion of the briefing dealing with non-classified information.

UPDATE: The Liberals have effectively agreed to the Conservative leader's request. The prime minister's national security adviser, Daniel Jean, is poised to deliver an unclassified briefing to MPs on the PM's trip to India and a separate, classified briefing to Tory leader Andrew Scheer.

If the briefing moves to classified details, Scheer said only Tory MPs who are, like him, members of the Queen's Privy Council, will stay in the room for a separate briefing.

The Queen's Privy Council includes current and former cabinet ministers and other prominent Canadians, such as former governors generals or chief justices, appointed for life to advise the Queen on issues of importance to Canada. They carry the title "Honourable" for life.

Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Feb. 23, 2018.

Scheer fits the bill, as do ex-Tory ministers such as Lisa Raitt, Erin O'Toole, and others who have been vetted by officials and granted certain security clearances.

The Tories had been pushing for Daniel Jean, the prime minister's national security adviser, to appear before a Commons committee to answer questions about how Atwal, a convicted attempted murderer, was invited to official government events during Trudeau's trip to India.

Jean was outed as the security official who told members of the media in February that factions within the Indian government may have had a hand in the Atwal invitations to sabotage Trudeau's trip.

'Follow-Up': Ottawa Is Obsessed With A Guy Named Daniel Jean

In retaliation for the Liberals refusing to have Jean appear at committee, the Conservatives sparked a marathon all-night vote last month.

The issue dominated the House of Commons for weeks, first with the Tories suggesting the Liberals' offer of a classified briefing meant Jean had leaked classified information to the media. When Liberals said Jean didn't leak classified details, the Tories accused the Liberals of a "cover-up" for not letting him answer questions.

In his statement, Scheer backed down and appeared to take the government's offer at face value.

"In correspondence with my Chief of Staff, the government confirmed that the information provided to journalists by Daniel Jean was not classified. In addition, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness confirmed that the information provided to the media by the National Security Advisor did not contain classified information," the Tory leader said.

"Given these admissions, I believe it is appropriate for all members of the Conservative caucus to be present for the briefing and I will invite them to attend."

Senior government sources told HuffPost Canada two weeks ago that the 20 or so members of the Tory caucus who are privy councillors could all request classified briefings. At the time, the Privy Council Office had confirmed it had offered Scheer a briefing on the Atwal affair, but he was adamant that no formal offer had been made. Scheer later suggested he would not accept a briefing unless it was held publicly.

The Tory leader's statement blasted Trudeau for failing "to be honest with Canadians" about the matter and accused the prime minister of putting the blame on "rogue elements" in the Indian government when Atwal and the Liberal backbencher who had invited him to the receptions, Randeep Sarai, said that wasn't the case.

More from HuffPost Canada:


Scheer also noted that a business associate of Liberal MP Raj Grewal was later revealed to have met senior government officials, including Trudeau, during the India trip.

"It's becoming clear why Justin Trudeau is going to such lengths to cover-up the details of his trip to India," Scheer said. "Just last week it was revealed that a Liberal Member of Parliament, who gets paid by a construction company in Brampton, secured access for his business partner to meet with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and the Minister responsible for economic development."

Opposition parties are calling on the federal ethics commissioner to investigate if Grewal broke any rules.

With files from Althia Raj