Editorial: This time, all of Canada mourns plane-crash victims

Two separate Postmedia editorials with the same message. Again, a remarkable illustration of how Canada and Canadians have changed.

Starting with the Ottawa Citizen:

Almost 35 years ago, Canada suffered its greatest aviation disaster: the bombing of Air India Flight 182 en route from Toronto to Delhi via London. Aboard were 268 Canadian citizens, most of South Asian background. The prime minister of the day, Brian Mulroney, quickly called his Indian counterpart, Rajiv Gandhi, to offer condolences.

That act, we realize now, was highly insensitive. The 268 were Canadian, not Indian, citizens (though about two dozen Indian crew were aboard). As recounted by former Liberal MP Bob Rae, who years later was appointed to advise the government on holding an inquiry into the disaster, victims’ families felt like the attack “was never truly understood as a Canadian tragedy.”

It’s now 2020. And we learned Thursday from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the horrible news that, again, Canadians have died as the result of an attack on a passenger plane. Whether the Iranian missile that brought down the Ukrainian Airlines flight from Tehran to Kyiv was fired deliberately or accidentally isn’t known. That’s why Trudeau insisted on a “credible and complete” investigation.

Sixty-three Canadians perished aboard that flight, and the nation is deeply traumatized. What the government will do when all the facts come in is still a matter of conjecture; Trudeau would not say on Thursday.

But if there is anything remotely comforting around this disaster, it is that today, unlike in 1985, we understand that the people who died are OUR people, OUR family.

Mansour Purjam, a dental technician at an Ottawa clinic. Mehraban Badiei, a student at University of Ottawa. Fereshteh Maleki Dizaje, an architect. Alireza Pey, a high-tech entrepreneur who lived in Kanata. Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student in biology at Carleton University. And so many others.

The government understands this. The prime minister has held two press conferences now, answering questions with cabinet ministers at his side, and demanding consular and investigative access from Iranian authorities. Canada’s foreign minister was on the phone to his Iranian counterpart within hours. The government pledged full support to the families.

The Iranian diaspora is an integral part of Canada’s modern identity. As diaspora researcher Amy Malek points out in the Citizen today, many Iranians were attracted here by our education system. Families stayed, and became successful members of communities across the country.

They – and all of us, their fellow Canadians – need answers. More horrific details are yet to come, and we know this knowledge will only deepen the grief everyone – not just Iranian-Canadians – feels. But this time, we’re in it together.

Source: Editorial: This time, all of Canada mourns plane-crash victims

From the Toronto Sun:

The reaction of Canadians to the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 shows how far we have come as a country since the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182 almost 35 years ago.

This time, Canadians know that with 138 of the 176 people who died in the crash having connections to Canada — including 63 Canadian citizens — this is our tragedy, as evidenced by the national outpouring of sympathy and support for the victims and their families.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday in revealing that the plane was probably shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, possibly fired accidentally, all Canadians want a thorough, credible investigation into what happened.

Contrast that to the muted political and public reaction to the Air India bombing of June 23, 1985, in which 329 people were murdered in Canada’s, and the world’s, most deadly act of aviation terrorism prior to 9/11.

Back then, Canadians were largely disconnected from what had happened, wrongly viewing it as an attack by foreign Sikh terrorists on India and its citizens.

That was symbolized by then prime minister Brian Mulroney calling then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi to express his condolences, when most of the victims — 268 — were Canadians.

Mulroney realized his mistake and, as the Globe and Mail reported, wrote personal letters of condolence to the families of those who had lost loved ones.

But we now know the widespread misperception in Canada that the Air India bombing was an attack on a foreign country by foreign terrorists murdering foreign victims, was reflected in a bungled police investigation and years of government indifference to the legitimate demands of the families of the victims to know what happened.

In 2010, 25 years after the bombing, then prime minister Stephen Harper apologized to those families following the release of a scathing federal inquiry report into the Air India investigation by Mr. Justice John Major.

“This was not an act of foreign violence,” Harper said at the time, stressing most of the victims were Canadians.

This time, by contrast, Canadians understand that the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 is a Canadian tragedy.

This time, we understand that many of the victims and their families are Canadians. That they are us.

Source: EDITORIAL: Canadians united by air crash tragedy

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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