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Top general suspends VIP military flights — after excessive drinking, sex assault charge and peeing in seats

OTTAWA—Canada's top general has suspended VIP trips to visit troops abroad and ordered that if they resume, alcohol will be banned onboard the military aircraft they fly on.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, made the announcement Friday after receiving the interim report by the Royal Canadian Air Force into the circumstances of a troubled Team Canada trip last December.

During that trip, one member of the delegation — former Maple Leafs player Dave (Tiger) Williams — is alleged to have sexually assaulted a military service member who was working as a flight attendant on the aircraft.

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Questionable behaviour on military flights sparks defence minister warning

Peeing in the seats? Military eyes air force alcohol ban after troubled VIP trip

Maple Leafs star Tiger Williams charged with sexual assault

He was formally charged with sexual assault and assault by military police earlier this month.

During that same trip, two VIPs wet themselves in their seats, there were complaints about excessive drinking and concerns whether military and aviation regulations were adhered to. For example, one passenger was allowed to bring a 40-ounce bottle of alcohol past security and onboard the flight, and several passengers were allowed to board the flight in Ottawa even though they appeared inebriated.

“The circumstances that gave rise to this incident also merit attention,” Vance wrote.

He said that within days of the aircraft’s return to Canada, the commander of the RCAF had ordered an administrative investigation to determine what transpired on the flight and “what conditions existed that either permitted or exacerbated the alleged misconduct.”

The military has been running morale-boosting Team Canada tours for the last 12 years, bringing athletes, musicians and media personalities to visit with Canadian soldiers deployed abroad.

But defence department sources have told the Star that the tours — run for the past 12 years — have always been known for excessive drinking and a party atmosphere.

Sources say that not all flight attendants who work on these flights have been formally trained to serve alcohol or to recognize the signs of inebriation.

And they say that flight attendants feel powerless to curb excessive drinking or rowdy behaviour on a flight with high-ranking military personnel and high-profile VIPs.

After getting the interim results of that investigation, Vance moved quickly to suspend Team Canada visits “until a thorough review of their intent and conduct is completed.”

He also ordered that alcohol will not be served onboard RCAF flights for future Team Canada flights, if VIP visits resume.

“The Commander of the RCAF and I are deeply concerned and disappointed about what is said to have transpired aboard this service flight and we will sponsor the necessary changes to prevent reoccurrence and ensure the safety and morale of our members,” Vance said.





‘All of us should be ashamed’: Anger after Raymond Cormier’s acquittal in death of Tina Fontaine

WINNIPEG—Supporters of Tina Fontaine plan to hold a walk in Winnipeg today to honour the girl a day after the man accused of killing her was found not guilty.

A jury acquitted Raymond Cormier, 56, of second-degree murder after 11 hours of deliberation.

The verdict was met with anger and sadness by Indigenous leaders who say the 15-year-old girl was completely let down by the social safety net that was supposed to protect her.

Read more:

Raymond Cormier found not guilty in death of Tina Fontaine

Prosecutors argue Raymond Cormier’s own words convict him in Tina Fontaine's death

Jury finished hearing evidence in trial of man accused of killing Tina Fontaine

“The CFS (Children and Family Services) system has definitely failed Tina Fontaine, the Winnipeg Police Services failed Tina Fontaine and Canadian society failed Tina Fontaine,” said Kevin Hart, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Manitoba.

“Everybody right now across this country should be ashamed of themselves for the injustice that just occurred here.”

Tina’s body, wrapped in a duvet cover and weighed down with rocks, was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg eight days after she was reported missing in August 2014. Cormier was charged more than a year later.

Tina was being sexually exploited after coming to Winnipeg from Sagkeeng First Nation, 120 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

The jury heard how Tina’s relatively stable upbringing spiralled out of control when her father was murdered. Her mother came back into her life and Tina had gone to visit her in Winnipeg, where the girl descended into life on the streets.

She and her boyfriend met the much-older Cormier in the summer of 2014. The jury heard Cormier gave the couple a place to stay, gave Tina drugs and had sex with her.

Fontaine was in the care of social services and was staying at a Winnipeg hotel when she disappeared.

Her death prompted renewed calls for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said the high-levels of violence against Indigenous women and girls is unacceptable.

She said Fontaine’s death galvanized Canadians to demand measures to stop the ongoing tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“The families of these women and girls — and the whole country — need answers to the systemic and institutional failures that lead to the murder of Tina Fontaine and far too many other Indigenous daughters, mothers, sisters, aunties, and friends,” Bennett said.

“We need to examine all the factors that lead to these violence acts, including: policing, child welfare, health care, and the social and economic conditions.”

Sheila North, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, an organization that represents northern Manitoba First Nations, said everyone involved in Tina’s life failed her.

“We as a nation need to do better for our young people. All of us,” said Sheila North, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, an organization that represents northern Manitoba First Nations.

“All of us should be ashamed.”





Bruce Arthur: If Jocelyne Larocque can’t take off her silver medal, then what the hell are we doing here?

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—If this column offends anybody, apologies in advance. On Thursday here in Pyeongchang the United States women’s hockey team defeated Canada in the gold medal final. Great game. And after she was given her silver medal Canada’s Jocelyne Larocque took the medal off, and

Which was fine! Or, it should have been fine. That game was so emotional, which is part of what made it great. Larocque could not stand the feeling of silver around her neck. It was an honest moment.

Friday, she ... apologized?

“I want to apologize to the IOC, IIHF, the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, Canadian Olympic Committee, Hockey Canada and most especially to my teammates and our fans for removing my silver medal after it was presented to me,” said Larocque in a statement released by Hockey Canada. “In the moment, I was disappointed with the outcome of the game, and my emotions got the better of me.”

Oh, for goodness sakes. Look, we all know Hockey Canada has high standards. And yes, we are a long way into these Olympics, and people get punchy as the thing rolls on. There have been a lot of late nights and early mornings and potato chips for lunch. So many nations, so many buses, so many hotdogs served without a bun. We are all very tired here. It’s the best, but everyone is more or less ready to go home.

(Don’t even get me started on the Francophone hockey player controversy over pronouncing their names with a French accent, by the way. They’ve been Derek Roy, rhymes with Toy, and Rene Bourque, rhymes with Pork, for a long time now.)

But Larocque didn’t huck it into the crowd or anything, which since the medals are heavy, could have hurt somebody. Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, the great long-track speed skater who was defeated by Canada’s Ted-Jan Bloemen in his precious 10,000, was given a 20-kilo weight at Holland House as a traditional prize for winning bronze in the men’s team pursuit, and in an ill-tempered, childish moment he and his teammate threw it into the crowd, sending two visitors to hospital. Kramer had to apologize in a press conference. Idiot.

But this is not that. This is not even Swedish world juniors captain Lias Andersson chucking his silver into the crowd in Buffalo earlier this year. C’mon now. Larocque stood there for all that time after the game ended in a shootout, put the medal in her hand, listened to the American anthem, tried not to cry. That’s a pretty poor version of poor sportsmanship.

“For all fans, young and old, please understand this was a moment in time that I truly wish I could take back,” said Larocque. “I take seriously being a role model to young girls and representing our country. My actions did not demonstrate the values our team, myself and my family live and for that I am truly sorry.”

She played near 31 minutes, second on the team, with everything she had. Losing killed her. Sportsmanship and grace is cool, but that’s OK too, kids.

Anyway, Canada now has its most ever medals at a Winter Games with 27, surpassing 26 in Vancouver, and a lifetime ago Canada opened this Olympics with an apology for something that an unnamed Canadian coach may have said to an unnamed Russian coach in the Olympic cafeteria, according to the Russians. It was presumably over the whole state-sponsored doping program that Russia ran for years, completely undermining the already threadbare idea that an Olympics is anything approaching a clean competition. You know, THAT thing.

On Thursday, after initial resistance, the Russians moved quickly to admit guilt after their mixed curling bronze medallist tested positive for meldonium. Alexander Krushelnytsky waived his right to an appeal, returned the medal, and left the Games. The Russian Olympic Committee paid the $15-million US fine, which goes to anti-doping efforts. Speeding ticket, basically.

It now seems very likely Russia will get its flag and colours back at the closing ceremony, as we suspected all along. (Though a second Russian athlete, a 12th-place bobsledder, has also tested positive.) You know who hasn’t apologized for subverting not just multiple Olympics but multiple Paralympics, and while we’re at it the World University Games? Russia. RUSADA, the Russian anti-doping agency, is still not certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Welcome back, guys!

I am reminded of 2010, when a bunch of Canadian women’s players celebrated their gold medal by drinking beers and smoking cigars on the ice after most people had left. This led then-International Olympic Committee executive director Gilbert Felli to say, “If that’s the case, that is not good. It is not what we want to see. I don’t think it’s a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that’s one thing, but not in public.”

Cripes, was Felli a highfalutin fellah. The Canadian players apologized, and they shouldn’t have had to, either. If we demand sportsmanship so rigorous that basic human emotion isn’t allowed to be displayed, then what the hell are we doing here, anyway? The Olympics is about a lot of things: sport, patriotism, television, regrettable infrastructure spending, insufficient doping penalties, airport efficiency, bus schedules, corruption, fatigue so deep you can barely think, and reporters eating potato chips for lunch.

And at the heart of it all, the human spirit that transports all these people here, to give everything. It’s awesome. Some things require an apology. Being human, without malice or ill intent, isn’t one of them.





'We are not alleging a worst-case scenario where Mr. McArthur was roaming the streets as a violent predator,' a 2003 recording reveals

“We are not alleging a worst-case scenario where Mr. McArthur was roaming the streets as a violent predator looking for a victim.”

The words were spoken by Crown attorney Michael Leshner in a Toronto courtroom in January 2003, as Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon (a metal pipe) and assault causing bodily harm on a man in his own home.

McArthur, now 66, would go on to be labelled an alleged serial killer, having already been charged this year with five counts of first-degree murder, with Toronto police saying there are likely more victims.

But in 2003, McArthur was before the court for the first time with no criminal record. A court recording of the guilty plea, obtained by the Star after being granted a court order this week, has provided new details on the attack, including the fact that McArthur himself went to police to say he may have hurt someone.

Read more:

With remains of six victims found in Bruce McArthur case, police anticipate more charges

Leaside couple in shock as planters with human remains found at their home

Police made quick decision to arrest Bruce McArthur to protect life of young man: sources

The court proceedings also make clear that a motive for the attack has never been determined.

“We may never know why Mr. McArthur acted in the way that he did, he doesn’t know at this point. The issue on sentencing will be, bearing that in mind: What sentence is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Leshner told now-retired Ontario Court Justice William Bassel.

It was just after noon on Oct. 31 2001, when McArthur arrived at the victim’s apartment in Toronto’s Gay Village and was allowed into the building by the victim.

“He thought there was no issue with regards to security or safety, by allowing Mr. McArthur into the building,” Leshner said.

“The complainant is also admitting he advertised in gay publications as a male hustler . . . . He’s acknowledging that Mr. McArthur certainly could have known about that reputation and by letting Mr. McArthur into the building, had allowed Mr. McArthur to believe that there was a potential opportunity for sex.”

No sexual encounter took place that day, Leshner said. The victim had been working on his Halloween costume, and thought about showing it to McArthur.

Instead, he was hit numerous times from behind by McArthur with a metal pipe that he had brought with him. McArthur had carried the pipe with him on other days, as he “apparently was concerned with issues of safety and security as a result of the subculture involving street hustlers,” Leshner said.

The Crown was never alleging that McArthur was carrying the pipe for the first time “with the unique intent to seek out the complainant and assault the complainant in the manner that he did,” Leshner said.

The victim at first blacked out, and then called 911 and was taken to St. Michael’s hospital. He sustained injuries to his head, bruising to his body and required several stitches on his fingers, the Crown said.

Meanwhile, McArthur went to police headquarters shortly after the attack, Leshner said. The police were able to match what he was saying with the victim’s 911 call.

“It’s fair to say that Mr. McArthur acknowledged the assault, and he said ‘I don’t know why I did it,’ ” Leshner said.

The victim was released from hospital that same evening. “It’s fair to say that this incident has traumatized the victim,” Leshner said.

In April 2003, McArthur received a conditional sentence of two years less a day, and three years’ probation. Part of the conditions included being barred from an area of the city that included the gay village and from spending time with “male prostitutes.”

The murder probe into McArthur continues, with police saying they anticipate further charges in addition to the five counts of first-degree murder he is already facing in connection with the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick.

Several of the men had been reported missing over the last few years in and around Toronto’s Gay Village, as the community expressed concern there was a serial killer in the area.

Police have spent the last few weeks searching for remains at a number of properties that could have had a connection to McArthur, who worked as a landscaper.

They have discovered the remains of six individuals in planters at a home on Mallory Crescent in Toronto, where McArthur mowed the owners’ lawn in exchange for storing landscaping equipment in the garage. Of the remains, only Kinsman’s have so far been identified.

Police are expected to provide an update on the case Friday morning. McArthur’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 28.

With files from Kenyon Wallace, Kelsey Wilson and Star staff





The NRA lashes out at Trump-influenced conservative conference

OXON HILL, MD.—The big screen beside the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference played a video mocking an old Connecticut regulation governing what makes a pickle a pickle, and if you’d been teleported to the present from, say, 1988, this would have made perfect sense.

And then you’d stare wide-eyed at much of the rest of the festivities.

For decades, CPAC was a gathering Republicans attended to rail against long-standing conservative villains like overreaching government. In the Donald Trump era, they have largely been superseded by other enemies.

This year’s CPAC still offers moments of old-fashioned conservative orthodoxy. But it is being joined by a large dose of the loose philosophy that might be best called Trumpism.

On Thursday, speakers griped about the FBI. They darkly warned about Muslims. They made fun of transgender people. They held a panel on “fake news.” And, one after the other, they hailed the wondrousness of a year-old era that Vice-President Mike Pence claimed was “the most consequential year in the history of the conservative movement.”

At a gathering normally heavy on Republican legislators, only one, Sen. Ted Cruz, was on the speaker roster. In their place this year were Trump administration officials and Trump-friendly others: Fox News hosts, a Breitbart News editor, campus rabble-rousers fighting “political correctness,” far-right Europeans.

Thursday’s most telling indication of the new moment was the presence of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the newest star of the Le Pen dynasty of France’s far-right National Front. Endorsing Trump’s “America First” motto and warning of a Muslim infiltration of France, she declared, “Vive le nationalisme!”

Trump was scheduled to speak on Friday.

The NRA strikes back

The biggest news on Thursday was the incendiary remarks from two officials from the National Rifle Association.

The NRA, the top U.S. gun-rights lobby group, has a time-tested strategy of temporary quiet in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. On Thursday, eight days after the shooting that killed 17 people at a Florida school, they used the friendly confines of CPAC to lash out.

First, spokesperson Dana Loesch levelled a wild and baseless charge against news reporters — claiming that they secretly enjoy mass shootings.

“I’ll say it really slowly so all the people on the platform in the back can hear me loud and clear: Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” she said, emphasizing each word. “You guys love it. Now, I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings.”

She was followed by NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, who called for schools to be “hardened” with armed security — and then painted a frightening picture of the state of American society, warning that the Democratic Party was “infested” with socialist “saboteurs” who hate American values.

He advised the audience to be fearful, saying, “You should be anxious, and you should be frightened.”

Media faces scorn

Loesch’s husband, Chris Loesch, appeared on a separate panel. He urged the audience to “wave goodbye” to the mainstream media. Dozens of people got up from their seats to wave to reporters seated in the back.

Just as it was a hallmark of Trump rallies, media criticism was a prominent feature of the new CPAC. The first video of the day was a compilation of clips of television anchors admitting errors or being mocked by Trump and Fox personalities as “fake news.”

The first panel was titled “An Affair to Remember: How the Far Left and the Mainstream Media Got in Bed Together.” In a sharp reversal from the usual Republican argument, which holds that cloistered media elites do not leave their northeastern bubble to speak with average Trump supporters in forgotten communities, one speaker, Candace Owens, complained that CNN too frequently interviewed Trump supporters who “had no teeth.”

They wanted to make Trump supporters look “stupid,” she said.

Hillary: yep, still hated

Ben Shapiro, editor of the website The Daily Wire and an icon to may of the young conservatives who attend CPAC, praised Trump for preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

A “lock her up” chant, like those common during Trump’s campaign, erupted from the left of the room, then another from the right. Within seconds, most of the gathering was chanting for the imprisonment of the candidate Trump defeated 15 months ago.

Cruz made a Clinton joke that appeared to be about her husband’s infidelity. He said a remark Bill Clinton made about Obamacare was one of the only times he had agreed with the ex-president — “other than about Hillary."

Warnings of a Muslim menace

Trump has long singled out Muslims as a danger to society. CPAC speakers did, too.

Le Pen claimed Muslim immigration was creating an “Islamic counter-society” and changing France “from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.” Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a Muslim, called for a government “commission on Islamism.” Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam claimed, without providing evidence, of a dangerous “sharia element” establishing a presence “right here in the United States."

Identity politics

Shapiro decried a culture in which, he claimed, members of minority groups can claim they have been victimized by an imaginary “white privilege.” He dismissed the existence of transgender people, saying a person born with male anatomy is “a dude” even if he identifies as a woman.

Other young conservatives also delighted in tweaking what they said was left-wing identity politics gone mad. Grant Strobl, chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, was applauded as he explained how he exploited a University of Michigan policy that allowed students to choose their own gender pronouns to make professors call him “His Majesty.”

Gorka!

Sebastian Gorka, the combative former Trump aide pushed out of the White House by chief of staff John Kelly, had an uneventful appearance on a live-taped radio show. He managed to make headlines anyway: before he entered the room, he swore at a reporter, called him “irrelevant,” and lightly pushed him before huffing away.





Watchdog asks Patrick Brown for income records after questions about Brown's house, mortgage arrangements

The independent watchdog overseeing MPPs’ finances is demanding to know why Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown has not declared rental income on his upscale lakefront home, the Star has learned.

Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake wrote to Brown asking for details following a Star story that raised questions about how he could afford the five-bedroom house on Lake Simcoe’s Shanty Bay.

“I note that an article in the Toronto Star on February 9, 2018, an employee in your constituency office is quoted saying that you receive rental income from your home,” Wake wrote Feb. 12, well before Conservative MPP Randy Hillier filed a complaint about Brown alleging financial irregularities violating the Members’ Integrity Act earlier this week.

“The Act also requires that you disclose all sources of income to my office, and as such I ask that you provide me with confirmation of same,” adds Wake’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Star.

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Who is Patrick Brown? The Ontario PC leader opens up about life, love and his new haircut as a June election looms

Brown, who now sits as Independent MPP after being ejected from the PC caucus, was reluctant to answer questions about the lack of disclosure Thursday in a brief interview, initially saying he was “busy.”

“Everything is in compliance with the integrity commissioner,” said Brown, who quit the leaders’ job Jan. 25 after a CTV News report — which he vigorously denies — accusing him of sexual misconduct with two 19-year-old women.

“We’ll have a response to the integrity commissioner shortly,” added Brown, who declined to provide details before being whisked off by a waiting minivan near Yonge and Eglinton.

The embattled former PC leader would also not answer questions on whether he receives an income from his 9.9 per cent stake in the downtown Barrie restaurant and sports bar, Hooligans.

Later Thursday, Brown released a letter to Wake describing the Hillier complaints as “fabricated” and accusing the Tory MPP, who supports Christine Elliott in the March 10 leadership contest, of foul play.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Hillier, a legislator who claims to represent hard-working taxpayers, has opted to usurp the resources of a taxpayer-funded institution such as the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to fight an internal party leadership race.”

Brown also denied Hillier’s accusations that he accepted travel as gifts, saying all trips were “cultural outreach missions…paid for by the PC party, approved by the PC Ontario Fund, and arranged in part by senior staff now working in the office of interim leader Vic Fedeli.”

But Brown, who is single and 39, did not specifically address Hillier’s concerns that international travel for his girlfriend, former $500-a-week Conservative intern Genevieve Gualtieri, 23, was paid for by others.

He refused to answer Star questions on Gualtieri’s jet-setting with him to India, Lebanon and other locales.

Regarding the waterfront manse in a well-to-do Lake Simcoe enclave north of Barrie, Brown said his mortgage payments were about $90,000 a year on a gross income of $180,000 as leader, or $120,000 net.

“That left me with $30,000 in post-mortgage, after-tax income — which is, as it turns out, the same amount retained by the average Ontarian after taxes and mortgage/rent payments,” Brown wrote in a two-page missive frequently touting tax cuts and other promises in his moribund People’s Guarantee platform for the June 7 provincial election.

Brown, who now earns $116,500 as a backbench MPP after being turfed from the PC caucus, did not make any mention of the costs of property taxes, estimated at $16,500 annually in a 2016 real estate listing, utilities or upkeep on the sprawling house.

Publicly available records first reported by the Star show the home was purchased for $2.3 million in July 2016, just over a year after he became PC leader, with a mortgage of $1.72 million.

The letter from Wake earlier this month states Brown in September 2017 submitted information listing the property value as just $1.91 million with a remaining mortgage of $1.64 million.

Wake’s memo also notes Brown wrote to him Feb. 5 — two weeks after losing his leader’s job and taking a hefty pay cut — to say he obtained “a short-term secondary loan” on the property.

Wake also called for more details on “updated financing information for the property, i.e. the amount(s) and the lender(s).”

Despite the allegations against him, Brown got the green light to run in the leadership race from the party’s provincial nominations committee Wednesday, causing a stir at Queen’s Park.

MPP Deb Matthews, co-chair of the Liberal re-election campaign, said the accusations against Brown suggest “unacceptable behaviour for someone who aspires to be premier of the province.”

“This is a guy who has admitted to have very young women in his home with alcohol. His behaviour, by his own admission, is not okay,” said Matthews, adding his candidacy makes the Tories look bad and will leave lasting damage.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Brown imbroglio proves the Tories are not fit to govern with an election just three months after they pick a new leader.

“It’s really apparent that this party does not have its house in order and they are not prepared to take the reins of government in Ontario,” said Horwath.

Conservative MPP Todd Smith, a co-chair of Elliott’s leadership campaign, said he was “a bit surprised” Brown got the go-ahead.

“I’m sure he’s going to give it the best he’s got to try and win back his old job. I just don’t think he can do it. I think there’s been too much damage.”

Also running for the job are rookie PC candidate Caroline Mulroney, ex-Toronto city councillor Doug Ford and Tanya Granic Allen, an anti-sex education crusader.

“We need to do better. We need someone who will stand up for integrity and put party before self,” Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, tweeted Thursday in a shot at Brown.





Trudeau’s outfits in India seen as an over-the-top fashion faux pas, internet decides

“Jai Ho?” For Justin Trudeau and his India trade trip outfits, it’s more like “Jai No.”

The celebratory anthem of Indian blockbuster film Slumdog Millionaire may be the note the prime minister was hoping to strike on his eight-day mission, but critics think otherwise.

Trudeau, his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and their three children have been criticized online and by media outlets in India for their display of “choreographed cuteness” and “razzle-dazzle” of over-the-top outfits.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, dressed in a plain black shirt and jacket, was photographed alongside the Trudeaus who were garbed in traditional garments fit for a wedding.

Grégoire Trudeau wore a pearl-and-cream-coloured sari dress made by a Brampton designer, and the prime minister showed off a silken, gold-coloured sherwani, a long coat top with embroidery.

“It’s mostly worn by a groom on his wedding day,” said Ruqayya Saed, owner of Apna Collection, an online boutique for traditional Indian clothing based in the GTA.

“It is too formal, but . . . if he was comfortable (in it), that’s good,” Saed said.

News reports out of India cautioned the prime minister to, “Never take dressing tips from the weddings of expat Indian friends,” a Times of India story said.

Read more:

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Editorial | Justin Trudeau’s very bad trip to India may carry a steep cost

The Washington Post wrote, “the latest gags focus on his razzle-dazzle wardrobe, upstaging even India’s flamboyant movie stars.”

Vanity Fair even weighed in, comparing the “scandal” to “Donald Trump’s taste in interior decorating.”

“The world is generally consumed with much more pressing scandals, and at the end of the day, Trudeau would not be Trudeau unless he was going above and beyond and into outer space and around the farthest reaches of the universe and back to Canada. He really is the most.”

Indian politician Omar Abduallah took to Twitter with a collage of the Trudeau family in their colourful attire, touching their hands and bowing their heads in the namaste gesture.

“Is it just me or is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now? Also FYI, we Indians don’t dress like this every day, sir, not even in Bollywood.”

The online jabs may be last on the prime minster’s priority list of criticisms as he prepares to wrap up his stay in India on Saturday. Earlier in the week, Trudeau’s office rescinded an invite to a convicted Canadian Sikh extremist to a reception in Delhi.

Trudeau’s fashion missteps have some precedents set by previous Canadian leaders. Former prime minister Stephen Harper was pictured wearing a cowboy hat at the Calgary Stampede, and Jean Chrétien was photographed wearing a UN helmet backwards.

Despite the flak Trudeau is getting online, some observers have been outspoken in his defence: “Obviously, someone else has created their wardrobe. They have trusted that advice and despite some of it being over the top, I think it’s nice of them to wear it,” one Twitter user said.

“In any case, I think they’re all looking really good.

“Get over it!”





Toronto police officer denies he shared photo of colleague in bikini, human rights tribunal hears

A sergeant with the Toronto Police Service denied accusations at a human rights tribunal Thursday that he shared a photo of a female constable in a bikini with colleagues.

Sgt. Howard Payton told the hearing he did not share the photo of Heather McWilliam, explaining that he saw the photo on Facebook at work while he was perusing the social media site, but did not share the image with colleagues at 23 Division, in North Etobicoke.

McWilliam, 33, is arguing at a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing that she was sexually harassed and humiliated for years by her supervising officers and that she was punished for speaking out. But she is also going a step further and alleging there is a systemic problem with the way female officers in the Toronto Police Service (TPS) are treated that needs to be addressed.

She alleges the workplace was a poisoned environment for female TPS employees, and that she heard sexual or sexist comments every shift for years. The tribunal has been sitting intermittently and has heard from over 15 witnesses so far.

McWilliam testified in 2016 that she had heard that Payton was showing a Facebook photo of her in a bikini to other colleagues in the division. At the time, she wanted to deal with the issue herself because she didn’t want to seem weak, she said.

Sgt. Kim Ledgerwood testified earlier in the tribunal that she saw the photo on Payton’s work computer when they were in the same office and on the same shift. Payton told the tribunal on Thursday afternoon that it is possible that Ledgerwood may have seen the photo because he had seen the picture “one or two times” on his work computer.

He denied, however, downloading the picture or saving it on his computer or phone.

He testified that he was aware that other officers in the division may have seen the photo as well through social media, adding that he remembers an officer asking, “Did you see their vacation pictures on Facebook?” Payton told the tribunal he could not remember who the question was directed to.

Payton was investigated by professional standards in 2015 because he used a photo of McWilliam’s face as his desktop background for months before she noticed and asked him to take it down. He was disciplined with an eight hour penalty.

He had also shared the same picture on his phone with another officer working with McWilliam because he found the pose “odd,” he testified.

McWilliam testified last year that these incidents were part of several incidents of harassment she experienced by her male colleagues while working at TPS.

In her testimony, McWilliam stated that male officers would assess the physical appearance and attractiveness of women and discuss the sex lives of female police officers. Female porn stars were sometimes used as screen savers or desktop wall paper, she said in 2016.

Various terms were used to describe female officers in addition to “dykes, c—ts and sluts,” she said. Terms such as “metro mattress” which she said referred to female officers who had worked in the metro division and liked to have sex.

“There were so many times it happened, so many words that were used, my brain sometimes blocks them out,” she said in 2016. “That was the norm.”

She said no one ever objected to the comments or referred to a workplace harassment policy. She also said that she did not see posters about workplace harassment that were supposed to be posted at every division.

Her way of dealing with it was to walk away or remain silent, she said, though inwardly “I was humiliated. I was degraded. I had no voice. I was being objectified sexually over and over and over again.”

McWilliam said she didn’t speak up about what she experienced until much later because she was focusing on her job and was aware how complaints of sexual harassment would impact her career.

The Toronto Police Services Board has denied McWilliam’s allegations on behalf of the officers and argued the hearing should not consider whether there is a systemic sexual harassment problem at the Toronto Police Service, since the allegations are being made by only one female officer.

The Board is also arguing that McWilliam’s allegations were properly investigated and dealt with by management.

The hearing will continue Friday.

With files from Alyshah Hasham





‘Bully’ bosses issue ‘swept under the carpet’ until junior government lawyer sent email

A junior lawyer’s decision to speak out — with an email copied to dozens of government lawyers — about an allegedly “abusive” boss at Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General caused Queen’s Park to finally take notice of historic problems that were later called a “festering” sore in a government report.

“I write to express my profound disappointment and deep sense of shame in the organization I work for under your leadership,” the young lawyer wrote in November 2016 to then-deputy attorney general Patrick Monahan.

Seeking maximum impact, the junior lawyer copied her two-page letter of complaint to the executive management group and dozens of rank and file lawyers at the attorney general’s ministry. She was responding to Monahan’s glowing description in a staff email of Malliha Wilson, his assistant deputy attorney general who had just received a lateral posting to another part of the Ontario public service.

“Your memo is particularly distressing given that you and other senior leadership in government . . . are fully aware of this pattern of behaviour,” the junior lawyer wrote. “Yet you chose to sweep all of this under the carpet.”

Wednesday, the Star reported on a secret government report into the behaviour of “bully” bosses at the ministry. In short, report author Leslie Macleod found that the workplace at the Civil Law Division is a “toxic” cesspool where senior bureaucrats — male and female — bully, harass and discriminate against hundreds of lawyers and administrative assistants.

In response to the story, Wilson said she had never seen the report and was not involved in the process that led to it.

“I have not seen the report or the emails you refer to,” Wilson wrote in a statement to the Star. “Any report must have been commissioned after I left the civil service and I was not consulted in its development. I am deeply concerned about any allegations that may suggest I treated anyone unfairly. I have sought to be a champion of diversity and inclusion throughout my career, and I am proud to have been the first visible minority to hold the office of Assistant Deputy Attorney General in Ontario.”

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told reporters at Queen’s Park he had previously been briefed about the situation, the report and how there “are some challenges by the officials.”

“Now that the report is there I know that the ministry is taking the responsibility very seriously and working hard to implement the recommendations of the report.”

Neither Naqvi nor senior ministry bureaucrats would answer specific questions by the Star. Naqvi said secrecy around the report (it was never released publicly) existed to protect employees, although no specific examples of complaints are in the completed document. “Over 250 people were interviewed. They came forward and discussed their perspective and their opinions on the basis of confidentiality because they did not want any negative repercussions towards their careers and the work they do,” Naqvi said.

The Star has attempted numerous times to reach former assistant deputy attorney general Wilson, now in private practice. The Star has also sought comment from former deputy attorney general Monahan, but he was recently appointed to a judgeship and a spokesperson said he would not be commenting. “It is not appropriate for Judges of the Superior Court of Justice to discuss such matters in the media,” said spokesperson Norine Nathanson.

Wilson, who was assistant deputy attorney general from 2008 to 2016, was transferred to the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario in November 2016, stayed for one year and recently formed her own law firm.

Here is what sparked the report into her conduct and that of dozens of other senior managers at the ministry, which is generally thought of as the “law firm for Ontario,” according to people who work at the ministry.

Sources within the ministry say that for several years government lawyers were complaining to Monahan and others about bully bosses, including Wilson. Nothing substantive was done. Among the complaints were allegations that senior management frequently ordered lawyers to change their well-researched legal opinions, sometimes for political reasons.

In the summer of 2016 a group of senior lawyers who reported to Wilson and Monahan contacted Steve Orsini, the secretary of cabinet in Ontario who serves as the province’s top civil servant. Orsini stepped in and Monahan was told to look into the allegations against his assistant deputy (Wilson). A “survey” was done, apparently without Wilson’s knowledge, and it confirmed at least some of the allegations. A decision was made to move Wilson out of the attorney general’s ministry to another government posting with similar salary.

On Nov. 18, 2016, Monahan wrote a glowing memo about Wilson’s years of service, saying “our colleague Malliha Wilson has decided to pursue an exciting new opportunity” at the Investment Management Corporation of Ontario. The six-paragraph note lauded her for many accomplishments, including “breaking down silos and co-ordinating the delivery of legal services.” Finally, Monahan wrote, “I want to personally acknowledge the extremely valuable support Malliha has provided me during my time as deputy . . . her departure will be a loss for (the ministry).

That went out on a Friday. The following Monday afternoon, a junior lawyer who had worked for Wilson wrote a strongly worded note to Monahan, and copied others in the ministry.

“In my view, your memorandum illustrates a lack of sensitivity to, or basic understanding of, the experiences of the many people who served or have served under you. At the very least, it has raised deep cynicism about the possibility that, despite the clear evidence of (assistant deputy attorney general) Wilson’s long history of abusive behaviour, senior leadership might subscribe to the views expressed in the memo.”

The Star has been unable to reach the junior lawyer and is not publishing her name at this time.

The junior lawyer wrote in her note, sent to some of the highest-ranked civil servants in Ontario, that Monahan’s laudatory memo “serves to minimize and silence those of us who were subject to her abusive behaviour and it re-subjects us to the humiliation and cruelty that characterized her relationships with so many of the people that worked for her.”

The junior lawyer said that after observing poor treatment of many others by Wilson she finally “walked out” of Wilson’s office “after suffering a particularly abusive attack.”

In her note she writes of numerous times when she was “proud to work as a public servant” at the ministry. “But today I am ashamed of the institution I work for.” She said it would have been better if Monahan had written a simple, neutral note announcing Wilson’s departure. She called on Monahan to show “strong leadership and a commitment to integrity and honesty.”

By January 2017, Monahan and other senior leaders in the provincial government had hired Macleod, a former public servant, to conduct an in-depth investigation into allegations of harassment, threatening and verbal abuse at the ministry. Among her conclusions after a six-month probe were that “many employees work in an atmosphere of constant fear of retribution and a culture of silence prevails.”

Irwin Glasberg was brought in to take over from Wilson on an interim basis after she moved to another government department. Monahan became a judge, and a new deputy appointed to replace him in early 2018 (Paul Boniferro, previously a lawyer in private practice at McCarthy Tetrault)

Macleod’s report, concluded in July 2017, has remained under wraps. It was shared with lawyers in the ministry, but they were all warned not to distribute it. She made more than 100 recommendations but the ministry will not say which are being implemented. The report is called “Turning the Ship Around.” Thursday, the Star was contacted by five current ministry lawyers who said they continue to have the same concerns about the ministry as they did two years ago.

Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca





Newmarket man claims $250,000 Instant Ice prize OLG flagged as ‘insider win’

What must have felt like a really long wait has finally ended for lottery winner Larry Allen.

On Wednesday, the Newmarket man claimed his $250,000 prize, won playing Instant Ice, following a 30-day waiting period imposed after the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation deemed his victory an “insider win.”

Allen, 55, had to wait because his sister-in-law is an employee at an OLG retail location, according to a news release. Before Allen could claim his prize, he had to wait 30 days while OLG publicized the win.

“I usually play Pro-Line as well as Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49,” Allen said while picking up his winnings at the OLG Prize Centre in Toronto. “After I picked up my Pro-Line ticket, I happened to have an extra $10 and decided to try Instant Ice.”

Allen said he checked his ticket at home and did a double take when he realized he’d won.

“I had to look over my ticket twice,” he said. “My mother, two sisters and niece were all quite happy about my win.”

Whenever a winner is identified as an “insider,” or someone with a close connection to the lottery process — a long list of those who’d qualify is posted online — OLG sends the case to a third-party reviewer.

“It happens often, but it’s because of the process,” said OLG spokesperson Tony Bitonti.

While no statistics were immediately available on the typical wait or how frequently it happens, Bitonti said OLG sends out a news release in every case. In most cases, as with Allen’s, all is well and the winner gets their prize.

Allen said he’s going to put some of the prize money in the bank, but he also plans to share some of it with his family.

Allen bought his winning ticket at Newmarket Smokes and Convenience on Davis Dr.

With files from Emma McIntosh





‘Vote’ staged by police union finds 86 per cent of those voting don’t have confidence in Chief Saunders

The Toronto Police Service will nearly double the number of Tasers in their arsenal after its civilian board approved a $950,000-request for more of the weapons — a move police say will reduce the likelihood of fatal encounters.

The approval came over the protests of members of the mental health community, who stressed the still-unknown health impacts of conducted energy weapons (CEW), particularly on those with addiction and mental health challenges.

The decision was one of many on a packed agenda at the board meeting Thursday, which plowed ahead while overshadowed by the release earlier in the day of an unfavourable poll by the Toronto Police Association showing apparent discontent in the ranks.

A so-called “non-confidence vote”held by the union found that 86 per cent of officers polled said they did not have confidence in Chief Mark Saunders’ leadership.

Participation in the vote, however, was less than half of the 7,300 association members, which includes uniform cops and civilians, but not senior officers (anyone above the inspector rank). The vote is also an wholly symbolic gesture, as the police chief is hired and employed by the Toronto Police Services Board.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said the chief and the board, nonetheless, must listen to more than 2,600 people saying “we’ve lost confidence. We feel that the direction’s wrong.”

“You can’t dismiss that. It’s coming from our members,” McCormack said.

The “vote” came after months of the union raising concerns about staffing levels, claiming that changes made as part of Toronto police’s continuing efforts to modernize the force have resulted in slow response times and low morale.

In response to the vote, Toronto police board chair Andy Pringle read out a statement on behalf of the board at the onset of the meeting, stressing its “full and unequivocal” support for Saunders.

“We understand that the strongly prefers the status quo. The TPA has been invited to the table and we have sought its input from the outset,” Pringle said.

The message was echoed by Mayor John Tory, a member of the police board, who said that anyone in any position of leadership is always going to face criticism.

“This is the kind of thing that can happen when you are trying to bring about change. There are people who are unsettled by that change,” Tory told reporters after the meeting.

Saunders said he was “taking everything in context,” noting to reporters that it was an election year for the Toronto police union.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s important that I do listen to the voices and concerns of the members,” Saunders said after the board meeting. “(The vote) hasn’t changed anything; I continue to listen. I always have and always will.”

But Saunders said he will keep moving forward with modernization efforts within the service, which include changes to officer deployment and staffing levels, although 80 new recruits have been hired.

Two recent demands made by the Toronto police union were in fact acted upon at the police board meeting Thursday: a move to equip more frontline officers with naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, and a decision to buy 400 Tasers.

The Taser purchase brings the number of the weapons owned by the service to about 900.

Toronto police deputy chief Barbara McLean stressed to board members that officers will continue to be trained to make de-escalation their first option during tense encounters. But she said there was a “gap” in the tools provided to officers.

“We believe that it is a tool that has the potential to save lives,” McLean said.

The board, however, heard from members of the public and mental health groups concerned about the purchase, particularly when the impact of Tasers on the health of people in crisis are not understood.

“Police services should limit their use of (Tasers) to situations where the only alternative would be the use of deadly force. (Tasers) should only be the used as a last resort and after all other de-escalation techniques have proven unsuccessful,” wrote Steve Lurie and Camille Quenneville, with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), in a letter to the board.

Uppala Chandrasekera, the newest member of the board and the director of policy and planning at CMHA, said she could not support the expansion of Tasers, saying it could undo some of Toronto police’s good work.

“I think moving in this direction is going to lose a lot of trust with the mental health community,” she said.

The board demanded changes to how it oversees Tasers, upping the number of usage reports from annual to quarterly reports.

Wendy Gillis can be reached at wgillis@thestar.ca





‘Total’ information warfare a threat to democracy: CSIS report

OTTAWA—Welcome to the age of “total information warfare.”

A startling new report released by Canada’s spy agency suggests Western democracies are facing a wide range of threats from disinformation and propaganda campaigns.

The culprits range from a 20-something in Kosovo pushing out “fake news” to make a quick buck, to hyper-partisans trying to influence domestic politics, to sophisticated influence campaigns from hostile nations trying to exploit existing divisions in Western society.

But the report points to a common thread: the use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to publish disinformation at a time when traditional journalism’s authority is under threat.

“Increases in data transmission capacity coupled with a shift toward programmatic advertising have resulted in a precipitous decrease in the ability of traditional journalism to mediate the quality of public information,” the report, compiled by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, stated.

“Conventional journalism has been partially displaced by a torrent of data from an infinite number of originators. Within that torrent is a current of lies and distortions that threatens the integrity of public discourse, debate and democracy.”

Read more:

Federal government can’t do much to fight fake news in Canada, documents say

Canadians’ trust in media increases despite era of ‘fake news,’ global survey finds

Trudeau to Facebook: Fix your fake news problem or face stricter regulations

A spokesperson for CSIS said that the report was the result of a day-long workshop the agency held with outside academics, and doesn’t necessarily represent the agency’s official views.

But the report shares some of the conclusions made by CSIS’s sister agency, the Communications Security Establishment, in a public report last year. CSE determined that it was “very likely” that groups will attempt to influence the 2019 election.

What’s not clear is who those groups will be.

The CSIS-released report warned against focusing too closely on campaigns by hostile nations, like the Kremlin-backed influence operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or the deployment of fake social media “bots” accounts to influence the Brexit vote.

“The problem of disinformation cannot simply be attributed to … deliberate actions of government-funded trolls,” the report reads.

University of Ottawa researcher Elizabeth Dubois said while social media companies like Facebook have been forced to grapple with the issue of election interference by players like Russia, comparatively little attention has been paid to independent actors domestically who may want to influence a political race.

“One, Canada is not the U.S. in terms of power and in terms of who is going to be interested in manipulating our election results,” Dubois said.

“(But) what nobody is focused on, that I can see so far, is how these social media companies might help us deal with (domestic) third parties … It’s never been as easy for a third party to make an advertisement and get it out to a wide portion of the public.”

“Figuring out how we deal with that, I think, is even messier than how we deal with foreign interference,” Dubois added.

The Canadian government has been grappling with this issue since early 2017, as the evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. election continued to mount. CSE has offered support to all parties as they prepare for the 2019 election, in the hopes that Canada can avoid the types of hacks and influence campaigns seen in the U.S., France, and the U.K.

The Star reported earlier this month that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned a senior Facebook executive the company needs to fix its “fake news” problem or face tighter regulation. Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, speaking recently with CBC, said she wanted “robust” steps from social media companies to combat the issue within six months.

But briefing notes prepared for Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, obtained by the Canadian Press, warned there was little the government could do even if it identified “fake news” intended to derail an election.

The memo suggested that a government flagging “fake news” could backfire and result in readers believing the stories more forcefully and sharing them more widely.

The report released by CSIS concluded there are things governments can do to combat disinformation, including promoting digital and news literacy initiatives, or confronting producers and purveyors of disinformation.

“Finally, those who are involved in the study of disinformation, who publicly confront the issue and the state and non-state actors engaged in the activity, need to keep in mind that there are no passive observers,” the report states.

“There are no front lines – the war is total – and there is no neutrality.”

Clarification – February 22, 2018: This article was edited from a previous version to make clear that although CSIS released this report, the views in this report does not necessarily reflect the views of CSIS, but of academics hosted by CSIS at a conference in 2017.





Convicted Sikh extremist had been removed from India’s travel blacklist, Star told

OTTAWA—Convicted gunman Jaspal Atwal, the Vancouver-area man at the centre of a political storm that has marred Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India, was removed from the Indian government’s own travel blacklist several months ago, suggesting the Indian government did not view him as security risk, the Star has learned.

Senior Canadian officials refused to discuss whether or how Canadian security officials vetted Atwal, or how he was able to show up at one Trudeau event in India, and get invited to another without being barred.

However, one source said Atwal, a convicted terrorist in the eyes of Canadian courts, was not removed from India’s notoriously hardline blacklist at the behest of any Canadian government official or agency.

That source said also that Atwal is known to have met with and has “close links” to Indian diplomatic officials with the Indian consulate office in Vancouver, and is close to other Indian officials as well. The insider suggested the Indian government itself appears to have accepted that “somehow his (Atwal’s) views on the issue of an independent Khalistan have evolved” and that he is “much more comfortable with” the government of India.

Atwal was sentenced with three others to 20 years in prison after a jury convicted them of attempted murder in the 1986 shooting of an Indian cabinet minister who travelled to B.C. for a wedding, a sentence upheld by an appeal court.

“This was an act of terrorism in order to advance a cause but acts of terrorism for whatever reason are and will continue to be condemned by all right-thinking members of Canadian society,” the courts said.

Atwal, who was 34 at the time, later told a parole board he was the gunman, the Vancouver Sun reports.

Embarrassing photos surfaced Wednesday of Atwal posing with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi at a film industry event in Mumbai, prompting questions of both governments in India and Canada.

Read more:

India-Canada relations at ‘rock bottom’ after Trudeau invitation error, ex-Liberal cabinet minister says

Trudeau’s outfits in India seen as an over-the-top fashion faux pas, internet decides

Editorial | Justin Trudeau’s very bad trip to India may carry a steep cost

The Canadian government said Atwal was not part of the official Canadian delegation, did not travel to India with the prime minister, but admitted he was invited by a B.C. Liberal MP to a prime ministerial event in New Delhi, hosted by the Canadian high commission.

It comes as Trudeau faces reports and opposition criticism that he met a frosty reception in India because the government there views him as sympathetic to Sikh separatists among his voter base here in Canada.

Canadian officials deny there was any “snub,” saying the Trudeau visit was co-ordinated well in advance and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trudeau were scheduled to meet Friday all along.

Prior to and during the trip Trudeau’s ministers, his national security adviser and now the prime minister himself have repeatedly declared Canada’s support for a “united India.”

When the photos emerged just hours after Trudeau had assured a chief minister in the Punjab region that his government condemns violent extremism, Trudeau’s office swiftly rescinded Atwal’s invitation. Trudeau laid the blame squarely at the feet of MP Randeep Sarai (Surrey Centre), who admitted responsibility.

“The individual in question never should have received an invitation and as soon as we found out we rescinded the invitation immediately,” said Trudeau in a terse statement to reporters in India.

Sarai, one of 14 MPs who joined Trudeau in India for the tour, echoed Trudeau in a written statement later, saying

“I alone facilitated his request to attend this important event. I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Although government officials would not say directly that the RCMP did not vet Atwal, that was the implication, with two saying it is not realistic that such individual vetting could take place.

One source said the nature of large public events or receptions where lists evolve constantly and where security forces have limited personal information does not allow for such vetting.

The source said officials conduct a threat and risk assessment that could include information on individuals, but added neither the RCMP nor CSIS received any information suggesting “that this person with his background was on the list.”

The source added that the information that Atwal was invited was received in advance of media reports and the process of pulling his invitation was under way before media reported his attendance at the earlier event.

One said security services take a “risk-based approach” to deciding whether the prime minister and his family require closer protection in such crowds. And sources denied suggestions any government minister, MP or other official overrode any concerns that may have been raised about Atwal.

The fact that Atwal’s name was dropped from an Indian government blacklist only partially explains how Atwal got a visa to travel to India. It doesn’t explain how he was able to leave Canada, whether he is — or ever was — on any Canadian “no-fly” list. Canadian officials would not discuss that either, saying only the threshold to be included is “very high” and a criminal conviction some 30 years ago might not necessarily place someone on that list.

The Star has reached out to the Indian government’s external affairs ministry for an explanation, with no reply by deadline. However, in India, government officials there were scrambling to answer press questions.

“I can’t say immediately how that happened,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters Thursday at a news conference in India that was posted online.

“There are different ways of people coming into India,” he said. “We are ascertaining details from our mission. We will have to see how this happened.”

Atwal has a record of involvement with the Liberal party. Photos circulating on Twitter show Atwal at party events with Trudeau and former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. He was exposed as an executive with a Liberal riding association in Surrey, B.C., after the Vancouver Sun reported on his criminal record in the wake of a controversy over his invitation to the provincial government’s throne speech in 2012. In 2011, a man in Surrey with that name donated $500 to the riding’s Liberal candidate, Pam Dhanoa.

A member of the riding association confirmed Atwal’s prior involvement in a Facebook message to the Star on Thursday. The message said a new riding executive took over in 2013 and that Atwal hasn’t been involved or attended any events since.

His name does not appear on any fundraising event guest lists that the Liberals have posted online since April 2017.

Ujjal Dosanjh, a former NDP premier of British Columbia and federal health minister in Paul Martin’s Liberal government, tweeted his rage upon learning of Atwal’s presence at event in India. “Do we have no shame? Khalistan has seeped deep into the veins of this administration,” he posted on twitter.

Dosanjh has long been a vocal opponent of Sikh extremism in Canada. He was beaten in an underground parking lot in 1985 after speaking out against religious extremists, an attack which left him hospitalized with a damaged hand and 85 stitches, according to his autobiography that was published last year.

Atwal was among suspected of attacking Dosanjh, though charges against him were later dropped.

In an interview with the Star, Dosanjh criticized Canada’s security agencies for failing to properly screen people attending events with the prime minister, adding it undermines Trudeau’s effort to allay suspicions his government harbours sympathy for Sikh separatists in India.

“Suddenly the bombshell in the form of Mr. Atwal goes off right in the middle of a very sensitive diplomatic and trade mission,” he said.

“One is known by the company one keeps. The fact that he was able to get through the screening process and be there tells you that the claims made by Mr. Trudeau and his ministers are not true.”

Trudeau’s trip was already dogged by criticisms that it is light on substance, heavy on costumed photo ops and family pictures, and was getting the cold shoulder from an indifferent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ottawa’s suspected sympathy for the Sikh separatist movement was also fanned in the Indian media on Thursday, when reports claimed that a Khalistan supporter named Paramjit Randhawa entered the country with Trudeau’s delegation after having been barred from India for 38 years.

On Thursday, Randhawa told Mumbai newspaper The Indian Express that his local MP, B.C. Liberal Joe Peschisolido, submitted his name to come to India with Canada’s delegation.

“There have been many like me who haven’t visited India because they would not get (a) visa,” Randhawa reportedly said.

A senior Canadian official said flatly it was false, that Randhawa was not part of the government delegation, nor had any Canadian official made any representations to India to have him or Atwal removed from any Indian blacklist.

With files from The Canadian Press





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