Ujjal Dosanjh: Canadians must discuss role of extremism in Air India tragedy
By Ujjal Dosanjh
Many lives were lost as a result of the Air India disaster. Each one violently and unjustly cut short. The Air India report reminds us of those who died in the catastrophe of 25 years ago. It offers both explanations that we must take to heart and recommendations that we must heed. Family members of the victims, of course, need no reminder of this disaster. Some have even said that there can never be closure, but this report offers at least a measure of comfort. Thus, the Air India report is an undeniably positive step in an incredibly long, difficult process.
Several issues arise following this report and we would be remiss not to consider them thoughtfully and thoroughly. In terms of explanations, the role of extremism in this tragedy cannot be overemphasized. Extremism was alive and well in Canada in 1985, with devastating consequences. How far have we come? Could a similar situation occur in the future? If extremism is still alive in Canada—and indeed it still is—how can we counter it?
The report leaves us with many questions, which in itself is another positive outcome of this inquiry. It effectively opens a space for dialogue on the issue that leads to disasters like Air India: extremism. Plotting and executing mass murder is the ultimate manifestation of extremism. Recognizing this fact represents a first step in addressing the problem.
How then, can we ensure that extremism does not lead to similar heinous crimes in the future? How do we ensure that people do not resort to extreme measures to make political statements? Better yet, how do we prevent extremism from taking root in the first place? It is time to have these difficult discussions in Canada.
The report was quite critical of security measures in place at the time of the Air India disaster. These can be altered as they entail structural and operational changes, improving on matters such as inter-agency coordination. I have the utmost respect and confidence in those who commit themselves to safeguarding Canadians. The recommendations for the public safety apparatus that arise from the report reflect institutional problems that can be resolved by design. Indeed, many of the security measures we have in place today are far more comprehensive than they were in 1985, so undoubtedly, many of the security measures that were in place in 1985 have since been improved. Institutions can and do change.
Similarly, worldviews can and do change. When worldviews become radicalized, extremism can and does result.
The one constant, underlying factor that we must discuss, is the role of extremism in this tragedy. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the victims’ families, and we owe it to the victims, to engage in a dialogue on the extremism that underpinned this tragedy. The Air India report shows us that it is time for reflection and discussion.
Ujjal Dosanjh is the Liberal MP for Vancouver South.