House of Commons Hansard #203 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was milk.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

May 17th, 1995 / 5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., pursuant to the order adopted on Tuesday, May 16, 1995, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion by Mr. McClelland at second reading of Bill C-319.

Call in the members.

Before the taking of the vote:

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The division will be taken row by row, starting with the mover and then proceeding with those in favour of the motion to the back of the Chamber. Then those in favour of the motion on the other side of the House will do the same.

Those opposed will then be recorded in the same order.

The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

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5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think you will find unanimous consent in the House to revert to Government Orders for the purpose of disposing of Bill C-86, which was under debate before the interruption. I think there is consent in the House to complete that bill right now without further debate.

Canada Elections Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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An hon. member

On division.

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The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food.

Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6 o'clock, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed in today's Order Paper.

Air-India Disaster
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should take immediate steps to initiate a royal commission of inquiry into the Air-India disaster of June 23, 1985 which claimed the lives of 329 people.

Mr. Speaker, June 23, 1995 will be the 10th anniversary of what is and was the worst mass murder ever in Canadian history. Three hundred and twenty-nine people lost their lives on board Air-India flight 182 while over the coast of Ireland.

The flight originated in Vancouver. Of the deceased, 280 were Canadians, 80 of whom were children. In the 10 years since the tragedy, a royal commission of inquiry has not been held. There has been no parliamentary inquiry whatsoever into this terrorist act.

I remind hon. members there was an inquiry in Ireland. There was another inquiry in India. Notwithstanding that over 280 people on board were Canadians, the Mulroney administration refused to initiate a royal commission of inquiry.

It is essential an inquiry take place in order for the people of Canada, the people of the world, to understand exactly what transpired both before and after the tragedy on June 23, 1985.

There is evidence to suggest the Government of Canada in the months before June 1985 was warned there could be or would be a serious act of terrorism by Sikh extremists in Canada.

June 1985 marked the first anniversary of the storming of the Sikh holy temple at Amritsar. The Indian government stormed the most holy place in June of that year and a number of people were killed. As a result Sikh extremists worldwide were suspected of planning retaliatory measures to seek revenge.

The government of India, aware that the first anniversary was coming up, gave a specific warning to the Government of Canada and in particular to the foreign affairs department, at that time headed by Joe Clark, that there could be an act of terrorism.

Notwithstanding the advanced warnings, there was absolutely no enhanced security for this flight. The X-ray machinery that would examine the luggage boarded on to the ill-fated flight broke down and instead of the bells and whistles going off the luggage was simply loaded on to the plane and scanned with a hand scanner.

In view of the warnings given to the Government of Canada, the luggage should have been more thoroughly searched by hand or they should have waited until proper machinery was in place.

During the weeks preceding the disaster the Prime Minister of India was scheduled to visit the United States. The American authorities were able to uncover a plot to assassinate Rajiv Ghandi at the time. It was determined there was a link between those alleged to have conspired to assassinate the Indian Prime Minister and a Sikh extremist group in British Columbia.

The security intelligence service, our secret service, was monitoring the activity of Sikh extremists in Canada, particularly in British Columbia. Not only was it trailing a prime suspect in the Air-India and the Narita bombing acts of terrorism, it also tapped their telephone lines.

In the weeks preceding the Air-India disaster CSIS agents actually saw the two prime suspects detonate a bomb in the woods outside of Duncan, British Columbia. Notwithstanding this information and in spite of the fact that they were actually listening in on telephone conversations, they discontinued the surveillance on these two individuals. Why did they do that? They assumed these people were constructing bombs to be used in acts of terrorism outside of Canada. Why did they not take action on the wiretap evidence they had? The evidence obtained was in the Punjabi language. There was no Punjabi speaking CSIS agent to translate this information. The information received as a result of these interceptions could very well have led the police to foil this act of terrorism.

In my view the Government of Canada of the day was grossly negligent. Is it any wonder the government was subsequently party to a settlement with the families of the victims? It contributed an estimated $20 million to a compensation fund for the families of the murder victims, and that was also a big secret. If there was no negligence on the part of the Government of Canada, why did it contribute to the compensation fund?

There are many very disturbing unanswered questions in this tragedy. To put this tragic act of terrorism into perspective, this was and continues to be today the most hideous act of aviation terrorism ever. The Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist act took a significant number of lives but nowhere near the number in the Air-India disaster. It was the worst mass murder in Canadian history.

That is the backdrop and when we look at the involvement of the various government agencies we have to ask whether the response of the Government of Canada was adequate in the circumstances.

Following the act of terrorism in June 1985, the security intelligence service erased two-thirds of the tapes it had gathered in the months leading up to the tragedy and in the several years that followed. It says it was done inadvertently, that there were no regulations in place to maintain that evidence, that there was nothing on those tapes to assist in the criminal investigation. A transcript was never taken of those tapes.

If one is dealing with the worst mass murder in Canadian history, why would one not preserve every last piece of evidence the authorities were able to uncover or to gather in the investigation?

There is no doubt in my mind there was a cover-up. The Mulroney administration refused to initiate an inquiry because it was trying to cover up the actions of agencies of the Government of Canada for which it was responsible. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Transport and the solicitor general of the day were all ultimately responsible for the gross negligence on the part of individuals within that administration.

The erasing of the tapes is further evidence they were trying to destroy evidence that could prove the security intelligence service and the RCMP were grossly negligent. Not only did they erase tapes, but false affidavits were sworn. Members of CSIS broke the law by swearing false affidavits in order to convince a judge to issue warrants to wire tap the telephone conversations

of numerous individuals subsequent to the disaster. The security intelligence service started to panic. The RCMP started to panic realizing what it had done or what it had failed to do. Then it deliberately misled the court into issuing warrants.

Those people have not been held accountable. There has never been an inquiry to look into the actions of the agencies of the Government of Canada.

Throughout the last 10 years the government and the previous administration have continually maintained criminal investigation is ongoing. That is the excuse the RCMP has put forward over the years. It is a lame excuse. According to press reports today the criminal investigation is virtually non-existent.

There are two people working part time on the worst mass murder in Canadian history. If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police does not have the evidence in order to secure a conviction after 10 years, surely at some point it has to say the investigation is concluded and it cannot move any further.

As I indicated, I believe there are reasons. The RCMP or certain individuals within the RCMP and the security intelligence service do not want a royal commission of inquiry.

There is also an international element to this tragedy, not only because it was an Air-India plane blown up, not only because of the involvement of Sikh extremists, but also because there is evidence suspects involved in the bombing of Air-India were trained in the United States in Alabama. The operator of the soldier of fortune training school in Alabama, Frank Camper, has indicated Sikh extremists were trained at his mercenary training school.

One would think that if the RCMP was doing its work it would personally interview Mr. Camper and others who might have evidence in the United States. The FBI refused to allow the RCMP to investigate or question Mr. Camper or others in the United States. Why would the Government of the United States and the FBI refuse to co-operate with Canadian authorities with respect to this matter?

The theory put forward, with evidence, by a number of people in Canada and abroad is that the American government, the Pakistani government and the Indian government knew that Sikh extremists were being trained; that the Pakistani government facilitates the training of Sikh extremists abroad; that the American government needed the co-operation of President Zia of the Pakistani government at the time to ensure that Pakistan could continue to be used as a conduit, as a route, for arms for the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

There is evidence to suggest that there was pressure by foreign governments, in particular the American government, the Indian government and the Pakistani government, on the Canadian government not to hold a royal commission of inquiry because of the international implications of what happened.

Notwithstanding the alleged involvement of other governments or the connection with other governments and other foreign nationals, this government has an obligation to the families of the victims to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. If there is insufficient evidence to bring those people to justice then the answers to all the disturbing questions must be answered. The only way to do that is through a royal commission of inquiry.

I believe that the government has a strong suspicion and in fact knows who was responsible for the Air-India disaster that killed 329 people. It lacks the evidence to secure a conviction. There is not the will to initiate a royal commission of inquiry. The reason I say the government is aware of who is responsible is because there has been a conviction in the case of the Narita bombing.

If you recall, Mr. Speaker, 52 minutes before the Air-India flight was blown out of the skies over Ireland, a bomb went off at the Narita airport in Tokyo. The CP flight originated in Canada. It landed in Tokyo. The baggage handlers were removing the luggage from the CP flight to an Air-India flight that was about to leave for Bombay when a bomb exploded and two baggage handlers were killed.

As a result of the meticulous investigation on the part of Japanese authorities, an individual by the name of Inderjit Singh Reyat was convicted and is now incarcerated in Canada for that crime. Mr. Reyat and Talwinder Singh Parmar were arrested in the Air-India disaster but were released after a preliminary inquiry in British Columbia.

There was a connection. There is no doubt that those responsible for the Narita bombing were also responsible for the Air-India act of terrorism, the Air-India mass murder. Yet we are unable to secure a conviction.

I have asked previous solicitors general about this. The Government of Canada has never offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Air-India disaster. That act of terrorism was not the act of a single person. It was a conspiracy and several people were involved.

Why has the government refused over the years to offer a reward, whether it is $1 million or $2 million or $5 million? If the Government of Canada is able to pay the family of Clifford Olson $100,000 to locate the bodies of his victims, surely it can offer a substantial reward to close the final chapter on this ugly episode in Canadian history. However, for some reason a reward has not been offered.

In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that the Mulroney administration was party to a cover-up. As well, there is no doubt in my mind that the present administration will do the right thing and call a royal commission of inquiry before the 10th anniversary on June 23. The reason I say that is because the Prime Minister, two years ago, while leader of the opposition, wrote in a letter:

We will continue to press the government to create a royal commission to look into the Air-India disaster.

I have every reason to believe that the Prime Minister will honour his word and a royal commission of inquiry will be appointed. However, I would still like to see the House take a stand on the issue.

Air-India Disaster
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before I recognize the hon. member for Bellechasse, I would like to indicate that this is a very important issue to a number of members here tonight. I wonder whether members would agree to share their time.

Would that be agreeable?

Air-India Disaster
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.