Sikh politics in Canada
Air India and the Anti-Terrorism Act
Last Updated June 28, 2007
By Terry Milewski, CBC News
Two months after the Liberal leadership convention, Prime Minister Stephen Harper faced an Opposition determined to vote down two controversial provisions of the post-9/11 Anti-Terrorism Act — provisions due to expire under a sunset clause.
Dion, the new Liberal leader, had supported the provisions when in the Liberal cabinet, but changed his position and insisted that Liberals vote against them this time.
One of those two clauses provided for preventative detention and the other for investigative court hearings — a new procedure not unlike a U.S. grand jury, allowing police and prosecutors to subpoena reluctant witnesses to testify even when no charges have been laid.
The first investigative hearing convened in 2003, during the trial of two men accused in the bombing of Air India Flight 182, in an attempt to compel testimony from Satnam Reyat, the wife of bomb-maker Inderjit Reyat. An RCMP affidavit said she had privately implicated both of the accused, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.
The investigative hearing procedure was challenged on constitutional grounds by Malik, Bagri and Satnam Reyat. It took until 2004 before the Supreme Court ruled the process constitutional — too late to make a difference at the trial, which ended in acquittals. The RCMP then spent more than two years organizing a round of more than a dozen investigative hearings, but that plan came to a halt when the Opposition voted against renewing the provision.
RCMP deputy commissioner Gary Bass, a veteran commander of the Air India Task Force, said the vote "represents a severe and damaging blow."
Question: "Are you at all concerned that you did a "serious blow," as the RCMP put it, to their investigation?"
Dion: "I don't think so at all, I don't think so."
Question: "You're not concerned? — to make sure I understand your answer…"
Dion: "My answer is that it did not hurt the investigation."
Dion conceded, however, that he had not received any briefing on the investigation.