Thursday, October 05, 2006

Racism raised at Air India inquiry

Ottawa: The head of the Air India Inquiry is raising the question of whether racism, conscious or unconscious, may have played a role in public and government reaction to the 1985 bombing that took 329 lives.
Former Supreme Court judge John Major suggested today that it's ``hard not to share" an impression held by some of the families of the victims.
"That is the fact that, if it had been an Air Canada plane and Anglo Saxons, things would have been different," said Major.
His comments came during an exchange with Bob Rae, the former premier of Ontario, whose meetings with the Air India families last year helped pave the way for the current public inquiry ordered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Rae said that, during his preliminary and informal investigation, he found no evidence of racism among government officials, police and intelligence officers.
He did, however, notice certain "culturally driven" issues. For example, it often took weeks to translate wiretap surveillance tapes of the bombing suspects from Punjabi into English.
The problem he said, was that there simply weren't enough people capable of doing the job — just as U.S. authorities didn't have enough Arabic-speakers to handle surveillance prior to the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.
04/10/06 Canadian Press/Toronto Star, Canada