Negotiations are on with families, says Minister

Canada on Tuesday unveiled an action plan to implement the recommendations of the Air India bombing inquiry commission, which submitted its report in June. But there was no announcement of ex-gratia payments to the victim families as recommended by the panel headed by the former Canadian Chief Justice, John Major.

Negotiations on the ex-gratia are being made with the families, said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, releasing the action plan in Ottawa with the slogan “Air India Inquiry Action Plan” emblazoned behind them.

All 329 passengers were killed when the Air India Kanishka Flight 182 from Toronto to Delhi was blown off mid-air near the Irish coast June 23, 1985, by a bomb planted by Sikh extremists to avenge the Indian Army action at the Golden Temple in June 1984.

In its 4,000-page report, the John Major Commission recommended an ex-gratia payment to the victim families and major overhaul of security, intelligence and trial systems to avert such tragedies.

The Action Plan advocates “streamlining criminal trial processes to better manage the unique complexity of terrorist prosecutions; modifying the federal Witness Protection Programme to ensure it is appropriately suited to the types of witnesses who need protection in terrorism cases; strengthen Canada's framework for combating terrorist financing; enhancing cooperation among Canada's law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in particular sharing for national security purposes; and strengthening aviation security over the short, medium and longer term, always focusing on the areas of highest risk.”

The government had previously promised to give $25,000 each to the victim families before Christmas.

Since the main reason for the collapse of the criminal case against the two Air India suspects — Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri — was the lack of credible witnesses barring journalist Tara Singh Hayer who was killed before he could testify, the panel recommended a National Security Witness Protection Coordinator.

After surviving an attack in 1988 which left him paralysed, Hayer was shot dead by militants in his home in a Vancouver suburb on Nov 18, 1998.

The report said, “Hayer's family testified as to the difficulty in getting the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) to take threats against Hayer seriously, even after two attempts had been made on his life.”

Since turf wars between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the newly created spy agency called the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) led to the destruction of tapes on Sikh extremists, particularly the plot mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar, the inquiry commission recommended powers for the national security adviser to sort out sensitive issues among the various agencies.

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