Friday, June 23, 2023

Remembering Canada's deadliest terrorist attack, the bombing of Air India Flight 182

Today is Canada's National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism.  It is observed in memory of the victims of acts of terror in Canada and abroad.  The observance takes place every year on June 23, to mark the anniversary of the bombing of Air India Flight 182, the deadliest terrorist attack in Canadian history.

Today is the 38th anniversary of the June 23, 1985 attack, which took the lives of 329 people. - 280  were Canadian citizens.  The airplane, a Boeing 747, operating on the Montreal- London-Delhi-Mumbai, route, was blown up by a bomb in Irish airspace.  It exploded off the coast of Ireland and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.  second bomb, intended to target another flight, killed two baggage handlers when it exploded at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, increasing the total number of victims of the attack to 331.  The attack was orchestrated by Sikh extremists.

Although flags across Canada are flown a half-mast on June 23, it seems that the majority of Canadians don't know the reason why.  Sadly, the results of an Angus Reid Poll (taken between June 19-21, 2023), are very disturbing.  Nine out of 10 surveyed admitted that they had little or no knowledge of the tragedy.  Only one out of five said they knew the incident was the worst act of terrorism in Canadian history.  Saddest of all, more than half of those below the age of 35, revealed that they had never even heard of the incident.  

The bombing of Air India Flight was Canada's 9/11.  It is disturbing that so little is known about it, especially among a younger demographic. Perhaps it is not really surprising if you recall that then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney called Indian president Rajiv Gandhi to express his condolences for India's loss.  He wasn't aware that it was Canada's loss and the most of the victims were Canadian citizens.  How embarrassing was that?

The tragedy of Air India Flight 182  will always resonate with me.  It hits home especially because I can put a face to one of the victims.  Her name was Vijaya Thampi, an employee of the Toronto Star.  Back then, I worked in the Star's library and Vijaya worked in Human Resources.  I didn't know her well.  I only spoke to her briefly, but 38 years later, I remember her as a pleasant woman.  I will certainly be thinking of her today, and the other victims of that doomed Air India flight, as will the family and friends of those who lost their lives in that 1985 aviation attack by terrorists.

- Joanne    

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