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Canadian PM to apologise to Air India Kanishka victims

Toronto, June 23, 2010

Twenty five years after 329 people, mostly Indo-Canadians, died when Air India flight 182 from Montreal to Delhi was blown off mid-air near the Irish coast June 23, 1985, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will apologize to the families of the Air India Kanishka victims here Wednesday.

Harper will make the apology when he joins the families to pay respects at the memorial service for the victims at the Air India memorial at Humber Bay Park here. The apology comes just days after an inquiry blamed the Canadian government for the tragedy and sought an ex-gratia for the families.

Headed by former Canadian chief justice John Major, the inquiry slammed the successive Canadian governments that they never "ever made any apology to the families of the victims.''

Harper will make amends for then Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney who has been criticised for not treating the bombing as a Canadian tragedy when he sent condolences to the then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Treasury Board Minister Stockwell Day said the prime minister will make "a very significant announcement" to add a "new dimension" to the memorial, according to reports.

The Canadian prime minister had met the victim families after the report last week to promise them an apology and compensation.

Officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) whose infighting led the plot to succeed and the guilty to go scot-free, will also attend the memorial service.

According to Bal Gupta who lost his wife in the bombing and was instrumental in the formation of the Air India Victims' Families Association after the tragedy, "A memorial meeting will be held at the Ontario provincial assembly here in the morning. In the evening, the victim families will pay their respects to their departed at the memorial.''

A memorial service will also be held at the Air India Memorial in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may also visit the Air India memorial here during his visit for the G-20 summit later this week, though there is no confirmation of it yet.

The bomb in Air India's Kanishka was planted by Sikh terrorists here to avenge the Indian Army action at the Golden Temple against heavily armed militants who had taken sanctuary there demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan.



Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper