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Meanwhile, the RCMP said investigators are still working on the bombing, Canada’s worst terrorist attack
Nicola Kelly wasn’t surprised to see a poll this week showing nine out of 10 Canadians know little or nothing of the 1985 Air India bombing.
The Guelph woman lost her mother, Barsa, in the devastating terrorism attack 38 years ago on Friday.
She said over the years when she’s met new younger colleagues at work, they ask her what happened to her mother, who was a college instructor and volunteer at several community organizations.
“And I tell them that my mom was killed in a Canadian incident that was a terrorist bombing. They just look at me like I’m crazy,” Kelly said Friday. “That’s the kind of reception that the Air India families get when we have to say what happened to our loved ones. That’s the worst part besides that complete lack of justice in this case.”
The Angus Reid Institute poll of more than 1,500 Canadians also found that three in five younger adults — aged 18 to 34 — have never even heard of the bombing, which remains Canada deadliest mass murder with 331 victims.
On June 23, 1985, two bomb-laden suitcases that had been checked in at Vancouver airport — destined for Air India flights — exploded on opposite sides of the globe. The first blew up at Japan’s Narita Airport, killing two baggage handlers. The second brought down Air India Flight 182 off the coast of Ireland about an hour later, killing everyone — including 280 Canadians — on board.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge and a subsequent public inquiry determined the bombings were carried out by Babbar Khalsa, a B.C. group pushing for the independence for India’s Punjab. Three B.C. men were eventually charged in the murderous plot. Two were acquitted and a third pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Almost four decades later, the pain is still fresh for loved ones left behind like Kelly.
“The truth is that my mother, a Canadian citizen, had the wrong skin colour to receive justice in this country. The fact that 30 years later, we’re still doubting and debating if there’s systemic racism in this country is a joke.”
Memorial services were held in Ahakista, Ireland, near where the plane went down, as well in cities across Canada on Friday. Statements commemorating the victims were released by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Trudeau said the terrorist attack “forever altered the lives of their families and loved ones who continue to live with the pain of their absence every day.
“Terrorism seeks to instil fear, division, and hatred within our communities. We can never allow the actions of a few to overshadow the values of peace, tolerance, and diversity that define our society and unite us as Canadians,” he said.
Meanwhile the RCMP in B.C. confirmed that investigators are still working on the case, but can’t provide details of the probe “due to the nature of the event.”
Staff Sgt. Kris Clark said in a statement to Postmedia that the file remains open despite the 2005 acquittals of two main suspects and the deaths of at least two others.
“The Air India investigation is ongoing and currently undertaken by the E Division Integrated National Security Enforcement Team,” Clark said. “The RCMP continues to seek any information from members of the public that will advance the investigation.”
He said despite the decades that have past “we remain committed to the families of Air India victims, and to holding those responsible accountable.”
“We recognize that due to the nature of the event being investigated by EINSET that we cannot provide detailed, regular updates. We can assure you that much work continues to be done, not least of which is the ongoing support to the victims’ families,” Clark said.
“This tragic, senseless act of terrorism and the resulting investigation has spanned generations. A new generation of family members continue to advocate for their lost loved ones, and a new generation of investigators continue to action outstanding investigative tasks. We acknowledge that the impact of this event will impact everyone involved for generations to come.”
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