Human element behind Air India probe
The long-awaited release of the government’s Air India 182 report heldlittle solace for the families of the 280 Canadians and 49 others whodied over the Irish Sea June 23, 1985.
The long-awaited release of the government’s Air India 182 report held little solace for the families of the 280 Canadians and 49 others who died over the Irish Sea June 23, 1985. Sixteen years before 9-11, it was at the time the deadliest terrorist attack in North American history.
I know a little about this case because I lived it. In fact, it directly altered the course of my life. My father was a lead RCMP investigator on the simultaneous Tokyo Narita Airport bombing, which killed two baggage handlers. Had CP Air 003 not landed 14 minutes early, there would have been many more dead Canadians off the coast of Japan. While he’s never specifically told me it was the case, I’m fairly certain the toll the investigation took on my dad convinced him to ultimately take retirement five years earlier than he would have — meaning we had to move again.
While the recent final report on Air India rightfully placed blame on CSIS and the RCMP for failing to prevent both disasters, it’s worth noting there were many fine investigators, including my father, who helped produce the only criminal conviction in either case — proving in court in 1991 that Inderjit Singh Reyat built the bomb that blew apart Japanese bag handlers Hideo Asano and Hideharu Koda. But in a country where many dismissed Air India 182 as an “Indian” tragedy, Narita would never get much media play in Canada.
It’s long been suspected, but never proven, that Reyat was involved with the Air India bomb as well, perhaps something lost in the inexcusable disconnect between the then-new intelligence establishment and the national police force. CSIS had only been created less than a year earlier, virtually all its staff transplants from the old RCMP Security Service. A retired RCMP and CSIS person once told me that despite the shared roots, there were still areas of distrust between the two agencies. Why is anybody’s guess.
There’s no question the flaws of the RCMP and CSIS were, and are, deserving of criticism. But remember, they are both staffed with humans, people who work hard and succeed at protecting lives in obscurity, often at great personal cost. And only get attention when they screw up.
– John Chick is a copy editor at Metro. email@example.com