Canada commission faults law enforcement in 1985 Air India bombing final report

[JURIST] Canada’s Commission of Inquiry into the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 released its final report Thursday 17 June. Led by former Canadian Supreme Court justice John Major, the Commission found that there were various institutional organizations that did not fulfill their responsibilities. Major condemned the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) for not utilizing the information available to them before the bombing, failing to enhance security, and not cooperating with each other during the investigation following the bombing. In remarks at press conference, Major explained the Commission’s findings:

The level of error, incompetence, and inattention which took place before the flight was sadly mirrored in many ways for many years, in how authorities, Governments, and institutions dealt with the aftermath of the murder of so many innocents: in the investigation, the legal proceedings, and in providing information, support and comfort to the families…Overall, the Government of Canada and its agencies in 1985 were not prepared for a terrorist act like the bombing of Air India Flight 182…Communications within and between security, law enforcement and transport agencies were often flawed or non-existent. Agencies relied on different concepts of risk and what constituted a threat to security. A lack of awareness of the threat of Sikh terrorism at the agency level led to inadequate procedures and practices, and employees were often poorly trained. This reflected a culture of complacency…The Government needs to take responsibility to avoid further failures and to prevent a return to a culture of complacency.

The Commission recommended enhancing the role of the National Security Advisor in the Privy Counsel Office to ensure coordination among different agencies, as well as creating a Director of Terrorism Prosecutions, amending the Canada Evidence Act, and establishing a National Security Witness Protection Coordinator. Additionally, the Commission concluded that the RCMP is not constructed to handle terrorism issues and the Canadian government lacks a knowledge and understanding of terrorism, further recommending the development of a terrorism-related academic center.

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