Another chapter in the Air India tragedy rolled out yesterday with Mr. Justice Major’s blistering Report on the bumbling execution of the investigation and prosecution that led to the eventual acquittal of Malik and Bagri from charges of mass murder.
The 3000 page Report sets out the name of each and every person who died when Air India flight 182 exploded over the Irish Sea some twenty-five years ago. It is profoundly moving to think of the searing pain endured by friends and relatives of the deceased, torment that was clearly exacerbated by the apathy of the Canadian government and public, and the long overdue process of justice, that was doomed to fail.
Symptomatic of the indifference exhibited was Prime Minister Mulroney’s telephone condolences to the government of India for their egregious loss, when it was really Canada’s loss. For the most part, the passengers on flight 182 were Canadians of Indian origin.
The Report details the missteps of the major players including CSIS and the RCMP. Apologists for these groups point out that CSIS was a fledgling organization feeling its way and developing its role in Canada’s security arena. This “defence” can only be described as pathetic. What Judge Major found was petty turf-wars, lack of communication and virtually no coordination between the two entities. Missed opportunities were rampant. Significant leads were seemingly ignored.
Perhaps the most lamentable aspect of the trial debacle was the lack of understanding and attention to brave men and women who sacrificed their personal safety to testify against the accused. Tragically, one of the key witnesses, Vancouver newspaper publisher, Tara Singh Hayer, was murdered before the trial commenced.
Canadians should be grateful for the skill and passion Judge Major brought to his task. But this is not yet the end of the story. The possibility of new evidence uncovered by the Inquiry investigators may lead to further charges and the assignment of responsibility to groups or persons unknown.