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Race bias behind Kanishka crash?

According to a report, racism might have contributed to the way Canadian agencies handled the case from the very beginning.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2007 13:32 IST

For long, many Indo-Canadians and families of the crash victims have blamed Canadian agencies for letting the tragedy happen and then botching the investigations, thus paving the way for the acquittal of suspects.

This alleged race factor was put on record on Thursday when a report tabled before the ongoing Air India public inquiry hinted that "systemic racism" might have contributed to the tragedy and subsequent failure of the criminal trial to nail the suspects.

Prepared by Toronto University sociologist Sherene Razack, who was commissioned by the families of the crash victims, the report said that a "powerful impression" prevailed among the Indo-Canadians that race might have been contributed to the way Canadian agencies handled the case from the very beginning - in assessing the terror threat before the bombing and then bungling the investigations.

The report referred to how Canadian agencies - the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence (CSIS) - never took seriously repeated warnings by India about a possible terror plot against its national carrier.

On the contrary, they questioned the very motives of India's national carrier. They thought the airline was raising the bogey of terror threat just to seek a way to avoid paying increased security costs and thus pass them on to the Canadian government.

The report went on to add that since the officials didn't believe in the warnings from India, they sent all sniffer dogs at Toronto airport, away for a training course. Had these sniffing dogs been on duty, they would have detected the bomb, which blew off Kanishka Flight 182, killing all 329 people on board in 1985.

Raj Anand, a lawyer and former chairman of Ontario Human Rights Commission, who presented the report to the inquiry commission, said it raised a very relevant question and the panel should look into whether Canadian agencies could have been racially biased.

Government lawyer Barney Brucker didn't take kindly to the report, saying that many points raised by the report had no grounds.

Inquiry commissioner John Major, who would file the final report next year, said the government was free to file its reply.

In fact, Major himself has made this point in his interim report released this week, saying that there was still an impression that "if Air India Flight 182 had been an Air Canada flight with all fair-skinned Canadians, would the government response have been different?"

Many Indo-Canadians say that till 9/11, Canada treated the crash as a "brown tragedy in which brown people were killed by brown people on an airline owned by brown people.