Air India inquiry will reassure victims' families, Major vows
The head of the Air India inquiry set out terms as it started Wednesday, saying he wants to assure the victims' families that the system has either already been fixed — or will be.
The inquiry's commissioner, John Major, opened the inquiry in Ottawa almost 21 years after Air India Flight 182 exploded off the coast of Ireland, claiming the lives of 329 people, including 82 children. Two baggage handlers at Tokyo's Narita Airport died in another connected bombing.
He outlined a wide-ranging mandate, including plans to examinewhetherthe RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other law enforcement agencies have resolved issues that hampered co-operation on the case.
He said he wouldalso look into whether:
- Canadian law puts sufficient restraints on the financing of groups that are listed as terrorist organizations.
- There's sufficient protection of witnesses in "terrorist" cases.
- More changes are needed to address aviation safety — especially screening of passengers and their baggage.
Families to testify, starting in July
Major noted that the inquiry is not a court of law and won't find fault.
The inquiry will be held in two stages. The first begins July 18, when families of the victims will be invited to testify about the impact the tragedy had on them.
Family members won't be forced to testify and they won't be subject to cross-examination.
The second phase, whichisthe main part of the inquiry, will include questioning of witnesses and submission of documents that trace the bombings and the subsequent investigation.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcedin May that there would be a judicial inquiry into the investigation and prosecution of the Air India bombing.
He and Major had met over several weeks with some of the families of the victims to discuss the terms of reference for the inquiry.
A suitcase bomb was loaded onto a flight from Vancouver and then transferred to Air India Flight 182 from Toronto. The plane was over the Atlantic Oceanen route to India via London when the bombexploded.
Only 1 person convicted
Only one person has ever been convicted in the attacks — Inderjit Singh Reyat. He was sentenced to five years in 2003 after being convicted of manslaughter and with assisting in the construction of the bomb, having previously served10 years for the Narita bombing.
In March 2005, Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik were acquitted on eight charges related to the bombings, after a judge ruled that the Crown's case against them was too weak.