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CHARBONNEAU – A chapter closes in Canada’s worst mass murder

Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to families of Air India bombing victims. (Image: @StephenHarper)

THEY PARKED their SUV at seven in the morning of July 14 in front of his family business and waited for him. When Ripudaman Singh Malik arrived a few hours later, he was shot dead in a volley of gunfire.

Two men have been arrested and charged in connection with the killing.

Malik is known for his acquittal in Canada’s worst mass murder. Canadians might be hard pressed to remember what Canada’s worst mass murder was.

Here are some hints.  It was the biggest terrorist attack in Canada’s history. It was the most expensive to investigate.  Relative to our population, as many Canadians died on June 23, 1985, as did Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

It was the Air India bombing in which 329 people died, including 280 Canadian citizens and permanent residents, 86 of them children. The flight originated in Vancouver and exploded off the coast of Ireland.

Canadians can be forgiven for not knowing much about the terrorist attack. Even Prime Minister Mulroney at the time seemed a bit confused. He gave condolences to the Indian prime minister, as if it was mostly Indians who died in the attack.

Air India flight 182 took off from Canada to England, destined for Mumbai (Bombay) India. All seemed normal for the passengers who awoke after a long overnight flight.  What they didn’t know was that a time bomb was ticking in a suitcase stored in the forward cargo hold.  The suitcase had been loaded by a “Mr. Singh” in Vancouver who was suspiciously not aboard. The flight ended violently in the early morning of June 23 off the coast of Ireland.

Now, of course, that wouldn’t happen. Passengers can’t load unaccompanied luggage –a lesson learned from the explosion of Air India flight 182.

Three were charged with the bombing but only one was convicted. Inderjit Singh Reyat served 30 years for lying during two trials and for helping to make the bombs in his Vancouver Island home. He was released in 2016.

In 2005, Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, a saw mill worker from Kamloops, were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy charges in connection to the Air India bombing. A judge determined that two key witnesses used by the crown were unreliable.

A public inquiry issued a report in 2010 that blamed the failure to prosecute on a “cascading series of errors” by police, intelligence officers and air safety regulators and prompted then-prime minister Stephen Harper to apologize to the victims’ families.

Gunfire justice is not uncommon in the disputes between Sikh militants and India.

Two newspaper publishers were gunned down after they met with Bagri in London a few months after the bombing. Tara Singh Hayer, a publisher of a Vancouver newspaper, and Tarsen Singh Purewal, a British newspaper publisher, were killed after they renounced extremism and printed newspaper articles critical of Sikh militants.

Talwinder Singh Parmar, said to be the mastermind behind the Air India bombing, was killed in a gun fight with Punjab Police in 1992.

Malik’s son said that his father devoted his life to Sikh teachings of love, honesty and the betterment of humanity.

Rest in peace, Ripudaman Singh Malik.

David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (9054 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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