Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sought apology to families of the victims of the Kanishka bombings on the 25th anniversary of the worst terror attack in the country's history. "Some wounds are too deep to be healed even by the remedy of time," Harper said on Wednesday at Air India memorial in Humber Bay Park in Toronto. "We are sorry."
The destruction of Air India Flight 182 "was, and remains, the single worst act of terrorism in Canadian history," he said, adding terrorism is "an enemy with a thousand faces, and a hatred that festers in the darkest spots of the human mind." "This was evil. Perpetrated by cowards. Despicable... Senseless... And vicious," Harper said.
The statement follows 'damning indictment' of last week by former Supreme Court Justice John C Major report blaming a "cascading series of errors" by the Canadian government.
Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Mayor David Miller, Indian High Commissioner to Canada S M Gavai and senior officials of RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Services were also present on the occasion.
The ill-fated Montreal-New Delhi Air India Kanishka flight via Toronto and London exploded mid-air 45 minutes before it was to land at London's Heathrow Airport, killing all 329 people on board, most of whom were Canadians of Indian descent. Memorials marking the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombings were also held in Ottawa and Vancouver.
Canadian Transport Minister John Baird attended the Ottawa ceremony while Asia-Pacific Gateway Minister Stockwell Day joined the victims' families at the Vancouver memorial. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's message on the occasion was also readout at the gathering.
Mourners and dignitaries yesterday observed a minute's silence to honour the victims during an annual service at a memorial garden in the remote Sheeps Head peninsula on Ireland's West Cork coast. The gathering fell silent at 8:13 am (local time), the moment Flight 182 disappeared from radar screens. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin said the "tragic events had forged unbreakable bonds between the people of three continents."
Ireland and the local community "gladly open their arms" each year to the families and friends of the victims after their "long journey to this hallowed ground," he said.
"You will always be welcome here," he said to a gathering that included Minister for Corporate and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid and Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
"It is a moment we waited for 25 years. People have waited 25 years to have government agencies acknowledge that they made mistakes. It is a great relief for us," Lata Pada, who lost her husband and two daughters, said.
With regards to compensation, she said: "It is appropriate way to acknowledge the mistakes across the world including Air India crews. It is important moment for all of us. Commissioner Major recommendations pointed out drastic deficiencies and mistakes committed by the Canadian government and security agencies." Bal Gupta, who lost his wife in the tragedy, said he hoped the renewed attention will lead to changes in policing, security operations and the justice system.
"It is unfortunate that those who killed victims are still roaming free," he said. "We have to evolve strategies to prevent such tragedies in the future." The alleged bomb maker was convicted of manslaughter in 1991 and received a 10-year sentence but two others were acquitted in 2005 due to lack of evidence.
This year's memorial came in the backdrop of a Canadian probe led by former Chief Justice John Major, which rapped the Canadian police and the intelligence for failing to check the terrorist strike. Justice Major also said the families of victims should be adequately compensated. PTI