Canada commission faults law enforcement in 1985 Air India bombing final report

Canada commission faults law enforcement in 1985 Air India bombing final report

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[JURIST] Canada's Commission of Inquiry [official website] into the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 [CBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] released its final report [materials] Thursday. Led by former Canadian Supreme Court justice John Major [official profile], the Commission found that there were various institutional organizations that did not fulfill their responsibilities. Major condemned the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) [official websites] for not utilizing the information available to them before the bombing, failing to enhance security, and not cooperating with each other during the investigation following the bombing. In remarks [text, PDF] at press conference, Major explained the Commission's findings:

The level of error, incompetence, and inattention which took place before the flight was sadly mirrored in many ways for many years, in how authorities, Governments, and institutions dealt with the aftermath of the murder of so many innocents: in the investigation, the legal proceedings, and in providing information, support and comfort to the families…Overall, the Government of Canada and its agencies in 1985 were not prepared for a terrorist act like the bombing of Air India Flight 182…Communications within and between security, law enforcement and transport agencies were often flawed or non-existent. Agencies relied on different concepts of risk and what constituted a threat to security. A lack of awareness of the threat of Sikh terrorism at the agency level led to inadequate procedures and practices, and employees were often poorly trained. This reflected a culture of complacency…The Government needs to take responsibility to avoid further failures and to prevent a return to a culture of complacency.

The Commission recommended enhancing the role of the National Security Advisor in the Privy Counsel Office [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] to ensure coordination among different agencies, as well as creating a Director of Terrorism Prosecutions, amending the Canada Evidence Act [materials], and establishing a National Security Witness Protection Coordinator. Additionally, the Commission concluded that the RCMP is not constructed to handle terrorism issues and the Canadian government lacks a knowledge and understanding of terrorism, further recommending the development of a terrorism-related academic center.

The 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 over the Atlantic resulted in the deaths of all 329 passengers, most of whom were Canadians. It was the largest single modern terror attack against a Western target before September 11, 2001 and resulted in the longest and most expensive trial in Canadian history. Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Sing Bagri were tried on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiracy to commit murder, first-degree murder of the passengers and crew of Air India Flight 182, and attempted murder of the passengers and crew. However, the suspects were acquitted on all charges [JURIST report] in 2005. The Commission's judicial inquiry then began [JURIST reports] in June 2006. The following year, Major temporarily closed proceedings [JURIST report] until certain documents from the RCMP and CSIS were publicly released. In December 2007, the Commission released its first report, The Families Remember [text, PDF], which emphasized the emotional suffering following the bombing.