John Major's Air India inquiry's key findings on the government response and treatment of families

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 concerning the overall government response to the boming and the treatment of the families:

Ӣ Immediately after the bombing, the Government issued public statements denying any mistakes.

Ӣ Early on, officials from Foreign Affairs made sincere efforts to provide assistance to the families, in Canada and in Ireland, with limited resources and without the benefit of formal guidelines, given the unprecedented nature of the disaster.

Ӣ During initial inquiries in Ireland and India, instructions were issued to avoid acknowledgement that the crash was caused by a bomb.

Ӣ Efforts were made to limit funds expended to respond to the concerns of the families. The civil suit they launched was settled early on by hard bargaining, before disclosure was made of much of the information now learned in this Inquiry.

Ӣ The families were not kept informed about the investigation by the Government, and often learned about new developments through the media. The RCMP only began to liaise with the families directly after 1995. CSIS refused to participate.

Ӣ Over the past 25 years, the RCMP has at times inappropriately invoked concerns about its ongoing investigation in order to limit the information provided to the families or to external reviewers.

”¢ Government agencies consistently opposed external review and attempted, at times successfully, to avoid or delay such reviews. Concerns about possible prejudice to the Government’s position in the civil litigation with the families was cited as one of the reasons for this opposition.

Ӣ When a review did proceed in the early 1990s, the agencies coordinated their responses in an attempt to avoid contradiction and present a picture of greater cooperation than in fact existed. The RCMP briefing provided in this review was less than accurate in its description of the ongoing relationship with CSIS.

”¢ The briefings provided by the agencies for the Rae review contained several significant inaccuracies which were not revealed until this Inquiry, including a statement by the RCMP that it had passed on the June 1st Telex to CSIS; a statement by RCMP and Transport that the presence of a dogmaster was part of the security measures in place at Toronto airport on the day of the bombing; and a statement by CSIS that it had advised the RCMP the day after the crash about the CSIS intercept on Parmar’s communications.

Ӣ The Government over-redacted the documents initially provided for public release in this Inquiry.

Ӣ The RCMP inappropriately relied on the fact of its ongoing investigation to deny the Commission important information when it failed, without reasonable justification, to advise the Commission forthwith that an individual who might potentially have had relevant information had requested to speak to the Commission. The RCMP then continued to withhold this information, without justification, even after the usefulness of the individual to the criminal investigation had been discounted.

”¢ The Government had only one set of counsel represent all potentially affected departments and agencies before this Inquiry. This Government decision to “speak with one voice,” despite known differences in viewpoint, meant that the Commission was not always presented with a clear statement of the agencies’ positions about contentious issues.