Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 43

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Bombing of Air India Flight 182

Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Air India bombing, an event that is often referred to as the largest mass murder in Canadian history.

In 1985, shortly after the bombing took place, Prime Minister Mulroney called the Indian government and apologized. However, it took 25 years for the Canadian families of the victims to receive a similar apology.

Last week, Justice Major’s report on the bombings was released. It was not until a quarter of a century after the bombings took place that it was officially recognized that the Government of Canada had made mistakes and owed an apology.

The events of the bombing were horrific for not only Canada and India, but for the entire world.

The Air India bombing claimed the lives of 329 people, most of whom were Canadian. However, the pain and suffering caused by the tragedy extended to the families whose loved ones were among the casualties.

For 25 years now, the families of these victims have been poorly treated by both our government and its agencies.

These families yearned for justice to be served. These families yearned for the answers to their many questions. These families yearned for compensation. Unfortunately, justice was not served, questions were not answered and compensation was not provided.

As Justice Major so eloquently stated:

The families of the victims of the bombing were poorly treated by their Government. For the longest period of time the Government seemed dedicated to self justification and

denial of fault that led it to cast a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering and the needs of the families.

There had been numerous calls by the families for a public inquiry into the event, as they felt unsatisfied with the response that they received at the time. The government, however, consistently refused. The families were left with a sense of frustration and uncertainty.

With the release of the report, one is led to ask why the overall process took so long. Why did it take a quarter of a century for us to get to where we are today?

Justice Major advanced the following theory:

. . . the callous attitude by the Government of Canada to the families of the victims might lead them to wonder whether a similar response would have been forthcoming had the overwhelming majority of the victims of the bombing been Canadians who were white.

Honourable senators, after 25 years, the Air India inquiry concluded that the families of the victims deserve an apology and compensation. Prime Minister Harper will issue an apology today, but when will our government provide these families with the compensation to which they are entitled?

I am aware that this will not happen overnight. However, it is crucial that we establish a timeline to ensure that these families are not forced to wait a long time for compensation.

Honourable senators, these individuals have suffered for two and a half decades. Let us finally dry their tears.