I thank the committee for giving us an opportunity to testify.
From the perspective of victims impacted directly by the most heinous violent crime in Canadian history, namely the terrorist bombing of Air India flight 182 on June 23, 1985, Air India 182 Victims Families Association strongly supports two provisions of Bill C-24. I will talk about only two provisions.
The first provision reduces the residence requirement for Canadian citizenship by one year for permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Forces. The second provision strips Canadian citizenship from those dual citizens who engage in acts of terrorism or engage in armed conflict with Canada. These provisions, if enacted into law, will on the one hand encourage, acknowledge, and support those who put themselves on the front lines for Canada to protect our freedom and democracy, and on the other hand act as a deterrent against those Canadians who violently demonstrate their opposition to our freedom and democracy by engaging in acts of terrorism or acts of war against Canada.
I speak to you not as an expert in legal or constitutional matters but as a victim of the worst violent terrorist crime in Canada. In the AI-182 tragedy I lost my wife, Ramwati Gupta, to whom, at the time, I had been married for over 20 years. In a tragic moment, I was left a single parent, with two young sons aged 12 and 18.
The AI-182 tragedy was a result of a terrorist conspiracy conceived and executed on Canadian soil by criminals who brought their problems from India into Canada. The terrorist bombing of AI-182 killed 329 innocent persons. Most victims were Canadians, coming from every province except P.E.I. Others came from many states in India and the U.S.A. They came from almost all religious backgrounds, from atheism to Zoroastrianism.
Eighty-six victims were children under 12 years of age. Twenty-nine families, including husband, wife, and all children, were wiped out. Thirty-two persons were left alone; the other spouse and all children were gone. Seven parents lost all their children.Two children, around 10 years of age, lost both parents.
The terrorist criminals took away our Canadian democratic rights to life, liberty, peace, and prosperity. Sadly, even today, the real culprits are still roaming free in Canada and elsewhere.
As families of the victims of the terrorist bombing of AI-182, we have suffered and continue to suffer incalculable grief and pain, which we do not wish to befall any other Canadian due to future violent criminal or terrorist acts. Part of our mission is to speak out on crime, violence, and/or terrorism issues to ensure that our country is safer and more secure for its citizens.
One provision in the bill proposes to reduce the residence requirement for Canadian citizenship by one year for permanent residents who serve in the Canadian Forces. In the last few years our forces have been on duty in Afghanistan, Jerusalem, Egypt, Mali, and the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast. The Canadian Forces are not an occupying force. They are either working as peacekeepers or fighting on the front lines against terrorism and other violent crimes, like piracy on the seas, which fuel terrorism and lawlessness.
These overseas criminals and terrorists do not hesitate to export terrorism to Canada or to lure and embrace misguided Canadians into their causes. Thus, our soldiers on the front lines are defending our freedom, democracy, and democratic values and rights. This provision in Bill C-24 acknowledges, encourages, and supports the loyalty of those permanent citizens who have joined the Canadian Armed Forces and have put themselves on the front lines for Canada.
Another provision in the bill strips Canadian citizenship from those Canadians with dual citizenship who engage in acts of terrorism or in armed conflict with Canada. Such persons demonstrate clearly that they have no loyalty whatsoever to Canada and no value for the Canadian democratic system. Thus, they do not deserve Canadian citizenship, which they are using as a matter of convenience to further their criminal and terrorist activities.
A Canadian citizen engaging in acts of terrorism and/or war against the Canadian Forces is not a far-fetched scenario. Today, terrorism is an international phenomena, and the terrorists, in most cases, may have worldwide connections. The proven cases of Khawaja in Canada and the millennium bomber in the U.S.A. are well-known examples of Canadians connected to terrorist activities outside of Canada.
Also, in the last few years, there have been many reports of highly indoctrinated persons from different parts of Canada leaving our soil to join terrorist training camps or terrorist activities in other countries. I will give you some examples: two Canadians involved in the terrorist attack on a gas plant in Algeria; a Canadian sentenced to two years in prison for terrorist conspiracy in Mauritania; a Canadian with dual citizenship involved in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria in the summer of 2012; CSIS being aware of dozens of Canadians, “many in their early twenties, who have travelled or attempted to travel” overseas to engage in terrorism activities in recent years; a Canadian's lost bid to lead Syria's rebels; and one of Syria's rebel groups, the al-Nusra Front, formally pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri.
There are probably many more unreported cases of Canadians involved in terrorist activities around the world. Given the appropriate right or wrong circumstances, such individuals may engage in acts of war against Canadian Forces on duty abroad and may pose a potentially mortal threat and danger to our soldiers. This provision for revoking Canadian citizenship in Bill C-24 provides a deterrent against such a probability.