John Major's Air India Flight 182 inquiry's key findings after the bomb exploded in 1985, killing 329 people

Retired Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major headed the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182.

The commission released the following key findings about the post-bombing stage of the investigation into the terrorist attack, which killed 329 people.

Ӣ CSIS often failed to disclose promptly to the RCMP information relevant to the criminal investigation, particularly information from human sources, or it disclosed information without sufficient detail or in a manner that prevented the RCMP from using the information.

”¢ CSIS was mesmerized by the mantra that “CSIS doesn’t collect evidence,” and used it to justify the destruction of raw material and information. CSIS erased the tapes that caught coded conversations possibly related to the planning of the bombing, and CSIS investigators destroyed their notes that recorded the information CSIS sources provided in relation to the Air India bombing. Both of these actions compromised the prosecution’s evidentiary position at trial.

Ӣ CSIS delayed disclosure of necessary information for the prosecution of Interjit Singh Reyat by adopting a legalistic and technical approach in responding to requests from prosecutor James Jardine.

Ӣ The RCMP never made a written request that the Parmar tapes be preserved, though it was aware of their existence, and also never made a verbal request specific to the Parmar tapes until months into the investigation, when the early tapes were already erased. CSIS only ceased ongoing erasure in 1986, following a request by the Department of Justice in connection with the civil litigation.

Ӣ It is impossible to determine what information, if any, was lost due to the tape erasures and it is impossible to tell whether all tapes were listened to before being erased.

Ӣ The RCMP often prematurely discounted or failed to follow up on intelligence leads that did not conform to its primary theory of the case. For example, one suspect was ruled out based on observations, made two years after the bombing, that his hair did not look like the hair of one of the individuals who had checked in the luggage, as depicted in an imprecise composite drawing.

”¢ The RCMP also prematurely dismissed information on the basis of preliminary assessments of credibility. When Person 1, prior to the bombing, provided information about a plot to bomb an Air India plane, his information was discounted as it was believed he was providing the information for his own personal interests. This suspicion persisted after the bombing and it took months–and critical media reports–before the RCMP reluctantly followed up on Person 1’s information, which was ultimately verified by a polygraph examination.

Ӣ The RCMP failed to appreciate the continuing threat of Sikh extremism or the fear sources had of their cooperation with the police being discovered. As a result, the RCMP often alienated sources, including sources who had previously been willing to speak to CSIS, because of the manner in which it treated them.

Ӣ The RCMP failed to appropriately protect sources and witnesses.

Ӣ The RCMP, at times, failed to take threats against Tara Singh Hayer seriously.

”¢ The RCMP eventually installed a video surveillance system in Mr. Hayer’s home, after his name appeared on a “hit list.” However the system was deficient and was not functioning properly on the day of his murder. The RCMP failed to inform Mr. Hayer’s family that no image had been captured on the video cassette.

Ӣ The RCMP devoted diminishing resources to the Air India investigation over time, and at one point only one member was assigned to the case.

Ӣ The RCMP investigation was plagued by internal strife within the E Division team and between E Division and Headquarters. Creative approaches to the investigation were often discouraged. Little progress was made until the 1995 decision to review and revive the investigation, in part because of a concern about the political fallout of a public admission that the investigation was at an impasse.