Air India explosion report a 'damning indictment': Canadian PM

      Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has described a federal report inquiring into the 1985 terrorist attack on the Air India plane 'Kanishka' as a 'damning indictment of many things that occurred before and after the tragedy'. Harper on Thursday promised that his government would respond "positively" to the recommendations made by the Justice John Major inquiry, specifically the call for compensation. "Our government launched this inquiry to bring closure to those who still grieve and to ensure that measures are taken to prevent such a tragedy in the future. We thank commissioner Major for his work and once again extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends for the loved ones they lost," the Globe and Mail quoted Prime Minister Harper, as saying. Four years and 200 witnesses later, the final report into the 1985 Air India bombing calls for a powerful national security czar with direct access to the Prime Minister to sort out disputes between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canada's spy agency - an ongoing turf war that the inquiry learned continues to this day. The National security advisor, a job that currently exists in a much more diminished role than Judge Major envisions, would be the ultimate security authority. "I stress this is a Canadian atrocity," Mr. Justice John Major said as he announced his findings. He added: "For too long the greatest loss of Canadian lives at the hands of terrorists has somehow been relegated outside the Canadian consciousness." He said that the national security advisor would help shepherd terrorism prosecutions through the courts, as would a new director of terrorism prosecutions. The inquiry felt these positions could help navigate the "intelligence-to-evidence" quandaries that beset the Air India probe in the 1980s and still hamper terrorism cases today. The report recommends appropriate compensation for the families. "The families in some ways have often been treated as adversaries, as if they had somehow brought this calamity upon themselves. "This goes against the Canadian sense of fairness and propriety. The time to right that historical wrong is now," Justice Major said. Justice Major suggested that agents attached with the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency should get with the times and lose their longstanding aversion to the courts. He said: "CSIS should conform to the requirements of laws relating to evidence and disclosure ... in order to facilitate the use of intelligence in criminal justice process." However, the report also urges his colleagues on the bench to be more sensitive to some imperatives of state secrecy. Canada's sweeping laws to disclose documents to the accused may have to be reined in somewhat in terrorism cases, the judge suggests. He says judges should contemplate "non-disclosure orders" for terrorism cases. "This was the largest mass-murder in Canadian history," said Justice Major, in releasing his report at a news conference in Ottawa. "The government needs to take responsibility to avoid further failures and to prevent a return to a culture of complacency," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said. "The finest tribute that could be paid to the victims of the bombing of Air India Flight 182 would be the creation of a rigorous aviation security system. This will require cooperation and resources, but, most importantly, leadership from the highest levels of government," she added. The release of the final report marks the end of a frustrating odyssey for families of the victims that stretched over more than two decades. Some victims' relatives never stopped calling for an inquiry.

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