Remembering the Air India Disaster

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the tragic Air India disaster that claimed the lives of 331 innocent individuals. 

Many families in the Sikh community were directly affected by the Air India tragedy and the Sikh community has lived under a cloud of suspicion as the perpetrators of this horrible act have yet to be convicted.  Until those responsible are brought to justice, the healing process cannot be complete. 

What is often forgotten however is the way in which this disaster brought families of different faiths and backgrounds together in their grief.  This was a Canadian tragedy that touched the lives of all Canadians of South Asian descent.

Below is a news story that appeared in the Globe & Mail the day after the bombing:

Terror in the Skies Hindus, Sikhs forget bitterness to unite in grief over loss

Monday June 24, 1985

By Zuhair Kashmeri and Victor Malarek

Canadian Hindus and Sikhs, embroiled in a bitter conflict over recent events in their homeland, were united in grief yesterday as they braved the news of the air disaster that killed many men, women and children of their community…Yesterday they gathered together in prayer for all the victims at Sikh and Hindu temples in Toronto and Montreal…Similarly, Gobinder Singh Randhawa of the World Sikh Organization in Toronto said Sikh temples in the city began reciting psalms from their scriptures for Hindu and Sikh families.  “In grief, all of us are human beings and not Sikhs and Hindus,” Mr. Randhawa said.  

Although 27 years have now passed, and the Air India Inquiry (to which WSO was an intervener) has made recommendations as to how such a tragedy can be averted in the future, we were disturbed to see a report in today’s Ottawa Citizen entitled, “‘Not if, but when’: 27 years after Air India, terrorist threat to Canada still looms large.”

It is imperative that all steps be taken to ensure such an act of terrorism can never take place again on Canadian soil.  That will be the greatest tribute we can pay to those innocent lives lost.  


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