Commemorating 39th anniversary of the deadliest Khalistani terrorist attack in Canadian history

On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to London, England, was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 329 people on board, the majority of whom were Canadians.

The 39th anniversary of the Air India Flight 182 bombing, often referred to as ‘the darkest day’ in Canadian history, will be solemnly commemorated on 23 June 2024.

High Commission of India in Ottawa, Canada, said on X: “India stands at the forefront of countering the menace of terrorism and works closely with all nations to tackle this global threat.”

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On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, en route from Toronto to London, England, was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 329 people on board, including 86 children, the majority of whom were Canadians. Only 131 bodies were retrieved from the sea.

The cause, as per BBC report, was a bomb in a suitcase that was transferred to the flight even though the ticket holder had not boarded.

Canadian investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) beleived that the bombings were planned by Khalistani extremists as revenge for the Indian army’s 1984 action against terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple in Punjab.

Air India Flight Flight 182 bombing; Picture Source; Supplied
Representative image: Air India Flight Flight 182 bombing; Picture Source; Supplied

According to the BBC, RCMP arrested Talwinder Singh Parmar, the leader of the now-banned extremist group Babbar Khalsa, and Inderjit Singh Reyat, on various weapons, explosives, and conspiracy charges.

In 2000, Canadian police also arrested Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri from British Columbia, on several charges, including mass murder and conspiracy.

However, the RCMP case against Parmar was weak, leading to his release and, in 2005, both Malik and Bagri were also acquitted of all charges as RCMP has allegedly made factual errors.

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Additionally, it was reported, in the 1990s two Sikh journalists who may have been key prosecution witnesses, were murdered in separate incidents in the UK and Canada.

Inderjit Singh Reyat was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in the UK for his involvement in the Japan bombing. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a Canadian court for the bombing of Air India Flight 182, receiving an additional five-year prison sentence. Later, he was also convicted of perjury during the trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, resulting in yet another jail sentence.

Canadian authorities have faced massive criticism for not doing enough to prevent the attack and for mishandling the investigation.

The BBC then reported that the verdict was greeted with shock, with victims’ relatives sobbing in the courtroom.

In 2006, Canadian lawyer Richard Quance, after meeting with some of the relatives of the victims in India, told the BBC that people have a lot of questions about the process that led to the acquittals of Khalistani leaders Malik and Bagri.

In the same year, Canadian government established a public inquiry led by a former Supreme Court judge which concluded in 2010 that a “cascading series of errors” had resulted in the “largest mass murder in Canadian history.”

To this day, Kanishka bombing remains the most heinous terrorist attacks attack in Canadian history. However, a study released by the Angus Reid Institute around the 38th anniversary of the Air India bombing found that the tragedy is still “a relatively unknown piece of Canadian history.”

In his statement to the Canadian parliament, Chandra Arya MP said: “Recent celebration of the assassination of Hindu Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Khalistan supporters, glorifying violence and hate, shows that the dark forces have been energized again and point to dreadful times ahead. Hindu-Canadians are rightfully concerned. I stand in solidarity with the families of the victims of Air India bombing.”

Last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “The bombing of Air India Flight 182 shook our country to its core. The deadliest terrorist attack in Canada’s history, the bombing killed all 329 people on board – including 280 Canadians. Today, we pause to remember them and all those whose lives were taken in acts of terror.”

The Government of Canada has provided a one-time ex gratia payment to the families of the passengers and crew who died on Air India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985. In 2007, a program was launched to establish three new memorials and refurbish an existing one in Ottawa, ensuring that the tragedy is never forgotten.

In 2011, the government also announced a $10M initiative, the Kanishka Project, which, over five years, invested in research on pressing questions for Canada on terrorism and counter-terrorism, such as preventing and countering violent extremism.

The Indian-Canadian community, along with supporters from various multicultural backgrounds, will gather at the following places to remember the victims:

  • Ottawa: Air India Flight 182 Monument at Commissioner’s Park, Dow’s Lake at 12:00 PM.
  • Toronto: Memorial Site in Queen’s Park (Ontario Legislative Assembly Grounds) South Lawn at 12:00 PM.
  • Montreal: Memorial Site in Monk Island, Lachine (1255 Saint-Joseph Blvd) at 2:00 PM.
  • Vancouver: Memorial Site in Stanley Park’s Ceperley Playground area at 6:30 PM

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