Kim Bolan (CanWest News Service) – RCMP security cameras installed at the house of Tara Singh Hayer were not working the night he was assassinated — Nov. 18, 1998 — the Air India inquiry heard yesterday.
Mr. Hayer’s son Dave and daughter-in-law Isabelle only learned about the faulty equipment this week when they arrived in Ottawa to testify at the judicial inquiry into the bombing.
“To find this information out, I tell you, is really tough,” Ms. Hayer testified.
“We placed a lot of trust in the RCMP … and now to discover this is pretty tough and it is pretty hard.”
Dave Hayer, a member of the B.C. provincial legislature, said he had always assumed police had received some description of his father’s killers because of the police cameras installed in July 1998 after a series of death threats.
In fact, the RCMP received information that month about the existence of a hit list with the late Mr. Hayer’s name on it, as well as a number of moderate temple leaders and the woman who would become the star witness in the Air India trial.
Mr. Hayer also had agreed to be a witness and before his murder had given three police statements incriminating Ajaib Singh Bagri, who was later acquitted.
Mr. Hayer’s son and daughter-in-law described a difficult decade for their extended family because of on-going threats against the patriarch, who continued to expose Sikh terrorists through his Indo-Canadian Times newspaper.
“Emotionally you start looking always behind you or in front of you — where you are going,” Dave Hayer told Commissioner John Major.
Ms. Hayer said that while a Sikh youth was convicted for the 1988 shooting that left the journalist in a wheelchair, the culprits behind the plot were never charged.
Tara Hayer wrote a letter to the head of Surrey RCMP in March 1998, saying he did not believe threats against him were being taken seriously by police.
“Given that these threats are escalating and becoming more severe in nature, I respectfully request your assistance in the investigation of these threats which I hope will cease as a result,” Tara Hayer wrote to then-Superintendant Terry Smith, who is now B.C.’s chief coroner.
“Time is of the essence. I am not capable of defending myself as easily as I used to when I could walk.”
Dave Hayer said he had urged his father for years to tone down criticism in his newspaper of violent Sikh extremists so as to limit the risk to his security.
“Maybe it is time to move on and let someone [else] deal with this issue because you have paid a heavy price,” Dave Hayer said.
But his father told him he had to stand up for freedom of expression.
The night Tara Hayer was murdered, his wife told their only son to keep the paper alive and Dave and others raced to the newspaper office to make sure the assassination was covered in the next day’s edition.
“That was the first time that I could really understand why we have to stand up for the values we want to promote. Until then I thought he has risked too much,” Dave Hayer said.