Mon, Jun 25, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Toronto unveils memorial to victims of Flight 182

REMEBERING The Air India Flight from Canada's largest city to London killed 280 Canadians, most of them of Indian origin or descent


A memorial for victims of the Air India bombing was unveiled in Toronto to mark the 22nd anniversary of Canada's worst case of mass murder.

On hand for the tribute on Saturday were Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller.

Air India Flight 182 from Toronto to London, originating in Vancouver, British Columbia, exploded and crashed off Ireland on June 23, 1985, killing 329 people. The flight was brought down by a bomb believed to have been planted by Sikh extremists campaigning for a homeland in northern India. The dead included 82 children and 280 Canadian citizens, most of them of Indian origin or descent.

Harper said the bombing is a reminder to Canadians that they are not immune to terrorism.

"On that dark day, we got a shocking glimpse of [what] lurks at the core of some of our fellow human beings," Harper said.

"Flight 182 may have flown under the flag of India, but the murder of its passengers was a singularly Canadian crime and tragedy," he said.

Harper said the memorial is a place where all Canadians can come to pay their respects and remember those who were victims of terror.

The memorial is made up of a sundial, gardens and a granite wall with inscriptions of the names of those killed. It also commemorates two baggage handlers killed by a bomb at Tokyo's Narita airport in a related attack.

There is also a memorial in Ireland but families say it is too far. About two-thirds of the Air India bombing victims lived in Toronto.

"June 23 marks an important an important historic and personal occasion. It marks the bombing of Air India Flight 182 as one of Canada's greatest tragedies," said Jayashree Thampi, whose husband and seven-year-old daughter were killed.

A public inquiry into the bombing is ongoing. Relatives of the victims demanded it after Canada's costliest investigation and a two-year trial ended in acquittals in March 2005.

Two Indian-born Sikhs, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were acquitted when a judge ruled there was not enough evidence against them.

A third man in the case, alleged bomb-maker Inderjit Singh Reyat, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison in 2003 after a plea bargain in which he was supposed to testify against Malik and Bagri. Instead, he infuriated the court when he took the stand and claimed to know nothing. He now faces a perjury charge.

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