View Full Version : 20th Anniversary of a Tragedy

06-24-2005, 03:11 AM
Today is the 20th anniversary of a tragic act of terrorism that claimed the lives of 331 innocent people. On June 23, 1985, two bombs were placed on two separate Air India flights leaving Canada, bound for India. The first flight was early, and its bomb killed two baggage handlers in Japan. The second bomb found its mark, killing all 329 passengers (82 of them children) by falling the jet just off the coast of Ireland. Today, the families of the victims, the members of the small Irish town that was the hub of the rescue/retrieval effort and a few political dignitaries gathered at the memorial of the tragedy near Cork, Ireland.

Most of the victims of this confirmed act of terrorism were Canadian. What has become known as the Air India Bombings remains one of Canada’s largest mass murders and single most destructive act of modern terrorism. Despite these facts, it took over 15 years for charges to be laid in connection with the bombings. Then on March 16, 2005, after a $130 million trial spanning 18 months, the two main suspects walked free. A third suspect, who was already in custody for another crime, pled guilty to manslaughter and received a five year sentence. A fourth man was never tried due to lack of evidence. 331 lives, mostly Canadian, all innocent and yet the only measure of justice was one five year prison term.

Canada has failed these people, plain and simple. That day, these terrorists not only killed those innocent Canadians but they destroyed their descendants and robbed the world of all the great things those people could have accomplished. And yet, 20 years later, no one has really been punished. No memorial exists on Canadian soil. In fact, at the time of the tragedy, the Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, called the Indian Prime Minister to offer condolences. Why? Because their national airline lost a plane?

This underlies the reason I feel that it took so long for charges to be laid: these people were seen as Indians and not Canadians. Despite paying taxes, owning homes and building lives in Canada, it took the increasing attention and mockery of the media for their government to take action. Kudos to the members of the media and those with public forums for not letting this tragedy fade away without retribution. I sincerely feel that was it not for their interest, the government would have let this crime go unpunished and barely recognized, save for the occasional rehearsed, solemn commentary by a politician.

During the course of those 15 years prior to charges being brought, key suspects and witnesses died, once credible memories faded and the proof gathered was lost forever because of department policy stating that evidence not used within a certain period of time be destroyed. What? Wouldn’t evidence pertaining to one of the largest single acts of murder on your country’s citizens have some sort of priority? At the very least wouldn’t it be locked in the priority cabinet or receive some special labeling? How could this happen?

And this brings me back to my point: these people who died so tragically as innocent victims of terrorism were never seen as Canadians and as a result were never given the justice they deserve. This never was and has not since been seen as a national tragedy. The Air India Bombings have been treated as a horrific event carried out by Indians on Indians.

But that viewpoint is wrong. The alleged perpetrators are believed to have plotted the crime and procured the explosive materials on Canadian soil. Most of the victims, including virtually all of the children, were Canadian citizens. Yet it took 15 years to bring the case before a judge. 15 years. In my mind, that fact is a big part of this tragedy.

The victims’ families continue to toil in unresolved grief while everyone watches with empathy. But we should instead be speaking out in outrage and anger. Yes, it is the fault of the perpetrators but a large burden falls on the Canadian government to deliver justice to the victims and their families. This is where their government failed and instead of seeking reprisal, chose a path of impotence. Only now is action being taken and still it is mainly due to embarrassing media attention and the victims’ families literally begging for justice, for closure. As Canadian citizens, they deserve it. As Canadian citizens, the victims deserve it. More importantly, as Canadian citizens, we should be much more vocal in demanding justice for our brothers and sisters, just as we should have done in 1985. Unfortunately, it may be too late and regardless of how this story ends, what is known as the Air India Bombing will forever remain an embarrassing black mark in Canada’s history.

- Hardy
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