Twenty years ago, in June 1985 I remember listening to the CBC at a friend’s cottage north of Toronto when the news came that Air India flight 182 from Vancouver to Delhi had been bombed out of the sky near Ireland. Three hundred and twenty-nine people, most of them Canadians died that day, including my friend Sanjay Sakhawalkar, his whole family and four other kids from my school. The summer of 1985 was filled with grief and sadness at the loss. I sobbed far more than a 17 year-old boy is supposed to. My dreams were filled with terrible recurring images of falling into the sea. All of us that knew people on that plane felt powerless, robbed of friends and family and determined to see justice brought against the murderers.
It was the worst act of air terrorism until September 11, 2001. An investigation began which soon targetted Sikh seperatists and several men were later arrested. After 19 years, the trial of the two principal suspects began and although the case was not watertight, a guilty verdict was anticipated.
Today the verdicts came and the news is appalling. A BC Supreme Court judge found the two men not guilty. And it’s not because these men are innocent (they are far from nice guys), but because the evidence that the Crown amassed and the witnesses they called were useless. The investigation was a shambles in many ways. At one point our ironically named intelligence agency erased key tapes of phone taps.
The Crown owes a huge apology to the families and friends of the victims of AI 182. Over 80 children died that day, including my friend Sanjay, a brilliant young man who we all knew was destined for great things. That the perpetrators of this crime are walking free makes the vomit rise in my throat.
No one has apologized for these crimes, or taken responsibility for them. I am really quite angry that I may never see the day when anyone does. We have seen the mass slaughter of Canadian children and adults and no one can nail the bastards who did it. It’s an outrage.
My heart goes out to the families.