Ottawa (AFP) – Canada’s prime minister apologized to the families of the victims of the 1985 Air India bombing for authorities’ failure to stop “the single worst act of terrorism in Canadian history.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke at a memorial ceremony Wednesday marking June 23rd as a national day of remembrance in Canada for the victims of terrorism, exactly 25 years after the Air India bombing.
“I stand before you to offer on behalf of the government of Canada, and all Canadians, an apology for the institutional failings of 25 years ago and the treatment of the victims` families thereafter,” Harper said.
“The protection of its citizens is the first obligation of government.
“The mere fact of the destruction of Air India Flight 182 is the primary evidence that something went very, very wrong. For that, we are sorry. For that, and also for the years during which your legitimate need for answers and indeed, for empathy, were treated with administrative disdain.”
A commission of inquiry set up to delve into the 1985 disaster last week faulted Canadian security agencies for a “cascading series of mishaps” in the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight.
“A cascading series of errors contributed to the failure of police and security forces to prevent this atrocity,” Commissioner John Major said. “Various institutions and organizations did not fulfill their responsibilities.”
Major said “error, incompetence, and inattention” occurred before the Air India flight and in the aftermath during the investigation and legal proceedings.
In particular, he pointed to failings by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the then nascent Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
“There was a great deal of information available to CSIS and the RCMP before the bombing of Flight 182 that should have called for enhanced security procedures and vigilance,” he said.
Warnings included a telex from Air India itself about the potential for bombs being hidden in luggage.
But CSIS and the RCMP were still focused on the threat of airline hijackings, not terrorism, and engaged in “turf wars” instead of sharing information, the commission concluded.
Harper said: “The destruction of Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985 was, and remains, the single worst act of terrorism in Canadian history. It cost the lives of 329 men, women and children.”
“This was evil perpetrated by cowards, despicable, senseless and vicious … and an act of grotesque violence and malevolence,” he said.