Air India Flight 182: The largest terrorist attack in Canadian history
On June 23rd, 1985, an explosion occurred at Narita International Airport in Japan killing two and injuring four. Less than an hour later, Air India Flight 182, which was flying the Montreal-London-Delhi-Bombay route exploded of the coast of Ireland and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 329 people on board died – the majority of which were Canadian nationals.
It was later discovered that there had been a bomb planted in a piece of luggage on board which had originated out of Vancouver International Airport. It was also found that the bomb that exploded at Narita International Airport also originated from Vancouver at the same time. Both bombs were eventually found to have come from the same source.
As time passed after the bombing of Air India 182, it was discovered that certain Governmental entities were warned earlier about the potential risk of such a bombing. However, this information was seen as not being pertinent and was ignored. This was in addition to the fact that CSIS had been investigating many of the individuals who would later be tried for the bombings, months before they even took place.
The initial and subsequent reaction from the Government of Canada after the bombing was one of unwillingness to admit to its own wrongdoing and also one of uncooperativeness in helping the families of the victims attain justice and find answers. As such many families felt frustrated, angry and hopeless with their Governments inaction.
As investigations into the incident took place, more information was uncovered including the fact that the bombing was committed by a Sikh terrorist group that had membership in Canada. It was found that a number of those who were deemed to be involved in the bombing were in fact Canadians British Columbia residents. Supposedly, the act was a response to the attack on the Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine in Armistrar, that had occurred in 1984.
But it was in 2000, 15 years after the bombing that two of the accused, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were finally charged with the first degree murder of the people abroad Air India 182, conspiracy to commit murder, the attempted murder of passengers and crew on the Canadian Pacific flight to Narita International Airport and two counts of murder of the baggage handlers at said airport who died.
The following year, another individual, Inderjit Singh Reyat, who had already served ten years for two counts of manslaughter and four charges relating to the Narita bombing, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and aiding in the construction of the Air India bomb. He was sentenced to an additional five years in prison.
In 2005, after a lengthy and expensive trial, both Malik and Bagri were found not guilty on all counts due to inadequate evidence. However, Reyat was found to have perjured his testimony in the Malik and Bagri case and is currently charged with perjury and is awaiting trial. Over the last 25 years, Reyat has been the only individual who has ever been found guilty of any charges relating to the Air India bombing.
In May 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for a public inquiry into the Air India bombing and appointed retired Supreme Court Justice John Majors to head it. Majors set up a Commission which would examine matters relating to the bombing which included, but was not limited to “co-operation between law enforcement agencies, aviation safety, security of witnesses in terrorism cases and the laws against financing terrorist organizations.”[i]
After four years of work, on June 17th, 2010, a final report was produced. In said report, Majors found that there had been “a cascading series of errors,” made by the Government and many of its entities that allowed the bombings to take place. Furthermore, the report established 64 recommendations and 4 observations for the current Government to undertake in so as to both remedy past mistakes and to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
A week after the release of the report, Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered the first Governmental apology in 25 years to the families of the victims.
Senator Mobina Jaffer’s Work On Air India Flight 182