Monday, June 23, 2008

Remembering Air India 182

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the downing of Flight Air India 182, the worst mass murder in Canadian in history. Until 9/11, it was also the world’s most deadly act of aviation terrorism.

On June 23, 1985, a Boeing 747 carrying 329 people, including 280 Canadians, exploded near the Irish coast killing all on board. On the same day, a bomb exploded at Japan’s Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers. Both flights originated in Vancouver.

Sturla Gunnarsson’s remarkable film Air India 182 aired last night on CBC, commercial free, to mark the anniversary.

Breathtaking in its clarity, importance, and power, the film is a beautiful tribute to the people who were lost and the families who haven’t forgotten them. (My full feature on the film appeared this weekend in TV Times.)

I hope all Canadians will take a moment today to honour the memory of those who died on Flight Air India 182. If you can, donate a toy or game to the Sally Ann, to remember the 86 children who died that day. Yes, 86 children.

The investigation into the attacks went on for almost 20 years. To date, only one person, Inderjit Singh Reyat, has been convicted of participating in the bombing.

In 2000, two Vancouver men, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, inplicated in the attacks were charged with 329 counts of murder. They went to trial in 2003, with a verdict of not guilty announced in 2005.

Perhaps because of its enormity and the elusiveness of justice in this case, its shadow seems perennially cast over Metro Vancouver. It’s the story without an end, which doubtless makes it harder for those who still grieve.

A public inquiry into the Air India disaster wrapped up this past February (2008), and chair John Major’s report is expected to be released this fall.

Also this fall, British Columbia’s Law Society is scheduled to hold a disciplinary hearing into the activities of Jaspreet Singh Malik. Here’s a brief paragraph from the citation, that’s posted online at:

“Nature of conduct to be inquired into:
Your conduct in participating in a scheme or design to mislead the Supreme Court of British Columbia by arranging the acquisition and/or registration of security of a loan from Gurdip Malik, a family member, Ripudaman Singh Malik, a family member, and/or attempting to obtain a judgment on that loan for the purpose of putting into place a reduction in the assets of Ripudaman Singh Malik prior to and for the purposes of his “Rowbotham” application.”

As the story continues to unfold, it’s worth noting the courage of those who have refused to let the story slip from public consciousness.
All Canadians are indebted to Gunnarsson for this film;
to journalists like Kim Bolan and Terry Milewski, who continue to pursue the truth in spite in spite of death threats and lawsuits;
to politicians like MP Ujjal Dosanjh who continue to lead the way;
and mostly to Canadians like Vancouver’s Hayer family, whose patriarch, newspaper man Tara Singh Hayer was murdered in 1998, who continue to speak out against violence.

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