Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 42

Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Prime Minister’s Office

Recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Tomorrow marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Air India bombing. This is the largest mass murder in Canadian history. In 1985, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney immediately phoned the Prime Minister of India and apologized for the deaths of Indian citizens. On that day, 329 innocent people were murdered. Some lost spouses and children. Most of them were Canadians.


For 25 years, these families have been searching for answers. As a result of the initiative of our Prime Minister, there has been an inquiry and Justice Major has provided these families with the answers they have been yearning for.

Justice Major has suggested steps to help the families. When will the government consider these suggestions and take action? What will be the timeline?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the bombing of Air India Flight 182, 25 years ago, was a terrible tragedy; it was the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. Canadian citizens lost their lives. The attack has had long-term implications and ramifications for the community and the victims’ families.

The Prime Minister, as the honourable senator rightly stated, has listened and acted. The government and the Prime Minister have thanked Mr. Justice Major for his tremendous work. The Prime Minister personally met with representatives of the families and has extended his personal sympathy and that of the government on the loss of their loved ones.

As the Prime Minister has said, the report is a damning indictment of many things that occurred before and after the tragedy, which the government is determined to avoid in the future. The Prime Minister also indicated that the government will respond positively to the recommendations regarding an official apology and compensation to the victims.

Honourable senators, the report is large and detailed. The government takes the recommendations seriously and, as the Prime Minister indicated, he will offer an official apology and compensation for the victims. I was pleased to read in The Globe and Mail today that a member of the Sikh community was paying tribute to the Prime Minister for finally listening to their pleas.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Jaffer: I appreciate there are many things on the security issue that will take time. However, 25 years ago, as I have already stated, 329 people lost their lives. Many mistakes were made by successive governments. As Justice Major stated, the families disagreed with this process; they were not seen as victims themselves but as adversaries who brought this calamity upon themselves.

What is the government doing to help the victims?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Jaffer is absolutely correct. The treatment and the way this tragedy was handled, before and since, was totally unacceptable. The Prime Minister has met with the representatives of the victims. The report has just been released, as the honourable senator knows. Tomorrow is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the tragedy. The Prime Minister, personally and publicly, stated to the groups representing the victims that the government will publicly apologize on behalf of the people of Canada and respond positively on compensation for the victims.

In fairness, honourable senators, that step is a major one forward from what has happened in the past. I assure the honourable senator that the other recommendations with regard to CSIS, the RCMP, other agencies of government, security at airports, et cetera, have all received, and will continue to receive, the attention of the Government of Canada.

I cannot stand here today and give the honourable senator a definitive list of all the things the government will do to respond to Mr. Justice Major. I reiterate the Prime Minister’s profound sadness, which he extended to the representatives of the victims of this terrible Canadian tragedy.

Senator Jaffer: I recognize the leadership role that the Prime Minister has played. I commend him for calling the inquiry, which no other prime minister called. I commend him for the way in which he has met with the families. I am also happy to read in the paper that tomorrow, 25 years after these 329 families suffered terrible pain, the Prime Minister will apologize.

However, we all know that an apology not backed by actions is not enough. I agree with the minister that it will take time before we can look at all the other things that Justice Major has set out. My only question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate is: When will the families receive the compensation they deserve; when will we start drying their tears?

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, once again, when the Prime Minister of this government makes a promise that he will deal with a situation like this one, he will keep the promise. Action will be taken.

As a lawyer, the honourable senator would know that there are many details to work out. The government cannot promise one day to compensate victims and then have a complete plan in place the next day. This plan will take time, but hopefully not too much time.

I will state again: The Prime Minister indicated to the representatives of the victims that the government would respond positively to the recommendations regarding an official apology and compensation.

I do not know what more I can add. I think the statement the Prime Minister has made on behalf of himself and the government is pretty definitive.