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John Major Inquiry report: negligence by Canadian intelligence that led to over 300 casualties

As the diplomatic row between India and Canada worsens, a five-volume report released in 2010 by a the Justice John Major Inquiry Report constituted in 2006 has come back into public consciousness. One look at the report reveals that an earlier lackadaisical Canadian response to Indian concerns over Khalistani activity led to the loss of […]

As the diplomatic row between India and Canada worsens, a five-volume report released in 2010 by a the Justice John Major Inquiry Report constituted in 2006 has come back into public consciousness. One look at the report reveals that an earlier lackadaisical Canadian response to Indian concerns over Khalistani activity led to the loss of over 300 lives in the bombing of AI flight 182 (Kanishka) among them ironically most were Canadian citizens (268) though the majority of them were of Indian-origin. It was in 1982 that then PM Indira Gandhi had sought the extradition of Talwinder Singh Parmar but Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre, who was the then Prime Minister, rejected the request. A public apology by Justin Trudeau’s successor Stephen Harper brought home the fact that it was Ottawa’s negligence that led to the death of over 300 people.
Three years after the warning, then head of Babbar Khalsa International, Parmar allegedly masterminded the bombing of Kanishka. The subsequent investigation by Canada dragged on for over 15 years and it was only in 2000 that the Canadian police arrested two Sikh terrorists based in Canada. Another suspect who was subsequently arrested was released on bail after just a day. The two arrested men — Ripudaman Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri — were remanded in judicial custody while Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat were declared as co-conspirators. Parmar was shot dead by the Punjab Police in 1992, while Reyat was sentenced to a 10-year jail stint for manufacturing the bombs.

HISTORY AND TOLL
On June 23, 1985, the Air India Boeing 747, named after the Kushan dynasty emperor Kanishka, took off from Toronto for a journey that was scheduled to include stops at Montreal’s Mirabel airport, London’s Heathrow, Delhi’s Palam and Bombay’s Sahar. After the flight number 182 arrived in Montreal, more passengers boarded to make for full complement of 329, including 22 crew members. The plane departed for England for the next leg. It made contact with the Shannon Air Traffic Control Center, but five minutes later, vanished off the radar screen. A bomb, sent via Vancouver, placed in cargo had exploded. Remnants of the plane were found off the Irish coast. There were no survivors. It has been attributed mainly to the terrorist outfit Babbar Khalsa, while the Canadian Commission of Inquiry also mentioned the International Sikh Youth Federation.
Approximately 20 families were “completely wiped out”, 32 persons lost their spouses and children, seven couples lost their children and two children around the age of 10 lost their parents.Of the victims, 268 were Canadian citizens, mostly of Indian origin and another 24 Indians.
Some victim’s families states that this bombing, per capita took a greater human toll in Canada than 9/11 in the United States.
John Major, then a lawyer with a practice in Calgary, once said that he could “vividly remember” hearing a news report about the bombing on his car radio. “The way it was described by the announcer, I wasn’t even sure that it took off from Canada,” Major said.
For over 15 years, the Canadian government was busy brushing the issue under the rug, pretending it was someone else’s problem, adding to the many woes of the many victims’ families and friends who sought justice.

INVESTIGATION FINDINGS
According to the first volume of the Major Commission’s report, the Royal Canada Mounted Police (RCMP) had learned from “two independent sources” about a plot to bomb two Air India flights. The report identifies them as Person 1 and Person. “In 1984, these two individuals, who had known each other since 1977, moved in shadowy circles in the Vancouver area. They both had extensive connections to a web of criminal activity within, and extending beyond, the BC region.”
Person 1 would later tell the inquiry of his dubious past, with a criminal record dating back to 1956 and approximately 16 convictions including theft, break and enter, armed robbery, and false pretences. For the past 15 years, however, he has had no criminal charges or convictions. On June 23, 1985, when Constable Rick Crook of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) learned of the fate of Air India Flight 182 and another explosion in Japan’s Narita. “The fact that there had been two bombs, that the origin of the plot appeared to be out of Vancouver, and that there was thought to have been a connection to Sikh extremism led Crook to suspect that the plot he had learned about in 1984 was, in fact, related to the plot that had been carried out that day.”

POINTS OF NOTE
Notably, Person 1 and Person 2 had, at separate occasions informed the RCMP of crime in the Vancouver area as well as their connections to several Sikh figures with ties to Khalistani extremist outfits.
Even after the Air India bombing, there was significant resistance and delay at E Division NCIS about a follow-up investigation of the November Plot and continuing skepticism about any possible connection between the November 1984 Plot and the bombing. Despite repeated requests by Headquarters that it be updated on the state of the investigation,79 it was not until nine months after the bombing that E Division took steps to pursue the issue seriously. Early in 1986, as part of a Headquarters review of the November Plot tip, the significance of the fact that two independent sources had come forward with the same information was finally recognised.

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