Skip to main content

Liberal MPs defeated a Conservative motion on Thursday calling on Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser to testify at a public committee about the Prime Minister’s recent trip to India, triggering a voting session in the House of Commons that ran through the night.

The motion called for Mr. Trudeau to instruct national security adviser Daniel Jean to appear at the public safety and national security committee before the end of the month. It was supported by the Tories and the NDP, but defeated in a vote of 161 to 111 with all Liberal MPs voting against it.

The Official Opposition also filed more than 250 other motions to trigger a marathon vote in Parliament on Thursday that could run more than 40 hours, using procedural tactics to draw attention to the fact that the Liberal majority blocked a bid to hear from Mr. Jean in public.

During a debate in the Commons before the vote on Thursday, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said that if the motion goes down, “It is a sign that the Liberals hold Canadians and Parliament in contempt and that this is a cover-up.”

But the Liberals argued that questions about Mr. Trudeau’s India trip have already been answered, and sought to defend Mr. Jean as a respected public servant.

“The motion calls into question the non-partisan nature of our public servants and the advice that they give, which we reject fully, completely, full stop,” Liberal MP Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, told the House during debate on Thursday.

The Conservative motion asked that Mr. Jean provide the same briefing to committee members that he gave to journalists last month, when he suggested factions within the Indian government may have orchestrated the presence of Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted of attempting to murder a visiting Indian politician on Vancouver Island in 1986, at official events to embarrass the Prime Minister.

B.C. Liberal MP Randeep Sarai initially took responsibility for inviting Mr. Atwal, but Mr. Jean later suggested in a background briefing with reporters that Mr. Atwal’s presence was arranged by people in India who want to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cozy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India. The Indian government has called the allegations “baseless and unacceptable,” and Mr. Atwal also denied any government involvement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CTV’s Question Period earlier this month that inviting Mr. Atwal was an “honest mistake,” and his invitation to a second event at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence in Delhi was withdrawn.

MPs spent much of Thursday debating the motion, with Conservatives and New Democrats speaking in support of calling Mr. Jean to testify.

NDP MP Brian Masse said Mr. Jean could provide clarification on a trip that “has gone off the rails,” adding the Liberals should be ashamed for using public servants as a defence.

“For the Liberals to suggest that the Conservatives are actually doing this as a broader attack on the people who get up every single day to provide services for Canadians is shameful, disrespectful, harmful,” Mr. Masse said during the debate.

In Question Period on Thursday, Mr. Goodale said Mr. Sarai has taken responsibility for issuing Mr. Atwal’s invitation. In defending Mr. Jean, a career public servant, Mr. Goodale said, “He has served this country with distinction his entire lifetime. His only motivation in the public service is defending the national interest of Canada.”