Memorials held for victims of Kanishka bombing in Canada

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto
  • Updated: Jun 24, 2016 22:26 IST
Members of the families of victims of the Kanishka tragedy at the Queens Park memorial in Toronto on Thursday. Also seen in the picture are India’s consul general in Toronto, Dinesh Bhatia, (with arms crossed) and Ontario opposition leader Patrick Brown. (HT Photo)

Even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the 31st anniversary of the Air India 182 terrorist bombing to express his government’s solidarity with victims of terror in Canada and around the world, memorial services were held in several major cities across the country.

Recalling the death of 329 passengers and crew members aboard that flight on June 23, 1985, Trudeau said in a statement released by his office: “Canadians were directly impacted by this senseless and brutal act of violence that left them grieving parents, children, relatives, friends, and colleagues.”

Many of those who lost their loved ones gathered at memorials in the cities of Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, and also in Ireland, where the aircraft had crashed off its coast.

The first ceremony was at Toronto’s Queen’s Park at noon on Thursday, which was the site for the first memorial in Canada for the victims. Among those paying their respects were India’s consul general in Toronto, Dinesh Bhatia, and the opposition leader in Ontario, Patrick Brown.

Trudeau’s statement linked the tragedy to more recent events, including the killing of 14 Canadian embassy security guards from Nepal and India in Kabul last week. He said that “Canada will continue to work closely with our allies – and the international community – to help fight extremism and terrorism, both at home and abroad. We remain committed and vigilant in the Global Coalition’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).” This date is also the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism.

As the day was marked at several places in Canada, those who lost their loved ones in the Kanishka bombing continued to lament the lack of any remembrance in India. Bal Gupta, who heads the Air India Victims' Families Association, said, “There is still no memorial in India. This was the largest terrorist tragedy which affected the Indian diaspora anywhere in the world and the Indian government finds it convenient to ignore it.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Air India memorial in Toronto last year as he met members of the families of victims of the tragedy. (HT Photo)

Gupta said the matter had been raised with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he visited Toronto and the Kanishka memorial in the city in 2010, while attending the G-20 summit.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the newer memorial at Humber Bay Park, which features a sundial and has a foundation made from stones from all provinces and territories of Canada and from every country from which the victims came. “It’s incumbent upon the Indian government to at least observe a moment of silence, if nothing else,” Gupta said.

Trudeau extended his and the Canadian government’s  “deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to terrorism”. He added, “We mourn with you and vow to never forget those who have been lost.”

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