Canada’s response to Iran crash a ‘180-degree shift’ from Air India disaster, experts say

More on the contrast between Canadian reactions to the Air India bombing and the shooting down of Ukraine International in Tehran:

Canada’s response to the Ukrainian air crash tragedy is very different from the way Canadians reacted to the Air India disaster 35 years ago, experts say.

News of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752’s destruction and the deaths of all 176 people on board — including 57 Canadians, a number revised downward from 63 on Friday — touched off a nationwide period of public mourning.

On Parliament Hill, provincial legislatures and municipal sites across the country, the Canadian flag was lowered to half-mast. Vigils and memorials are being planned in communities from coast to coast.

That collective outpouring of grief is quite unlike the public’s reaction to the Air India disaster 35 years ago, when Flight 182, carrying 329 people — most of them Canadian citizens or permanent residents — was brought down by a bomb attack on June 23, 1985.

Chandrima Chakraborty, a cultural studies professor at McMaster University, said the Air India crash was dismissed as a “foreign tragedy” and met with widespread indifference by the Canadian public. Despite the scale of the tragedy — 82 children were killed — the event did not resonate as deeply with Canadians as PS752’s crash in Iran seems to be now, she said.

“It was an Air India plane, (thought to be) primarily Indians, so it must be an Indian tragedy,” she said. “That hasn’t happened this time.”

Chakraborty said this week’s crash is being framed as a Canadian tragedy in the media and by the federal government, and Canadians themselves are mourning the victims as fellow citizens.

Brian Mulroney, prime minister at the time of the Air India crash, was criticized for offering condolences to the Indian government rather than to the Canadian families of victims after the disaster.

“Once the government has that kind of gut response, it pushed the bombing to the margins of Canadian public consciousness. It did not result in the outpouring of grief or public mourning that we’re seeing now,” Chakraborty said.

“Canada’s lack of acknowledgement of the Air India loss as Canadian, I think, exacerbated the family’s grief of losing family members.”

Public understanding ‘hazy’

Today, scholarly research on the Air India tragedy remains relatively scarce and public understanding of the event is “hazy” in the minds of most Canadians, she said.

The Air India disaster led to a public inquiry and lengthy criminal trials. In 2010, a quarter century after the disaster, then-prime minister Stephen Harper delivered a formal apology to the families of the victims for Canada’s failure to prevent the tragedy and for mistreating the families in the aftermath.

“Your pain is our pain. As you grieve, so we grieve. And, as the years have deepened your grief, so has the understanding of our country grown,” he said on June 23, 2010.

“Canadians who sadly did not at first accept that this outrage was made in Canada accept it now. Let me just speak directly to this perception, for it is wrong and it must be laid to rest. This was not an act of foreign violence. This atrocity was conceived in Canada, executed in Canada, by Canadian citizens, and its victims were themselves mostly citizens of Canada.”

Jack Major, a former Supreme Court justice who presided over the Air India public inquiry, said the circumstances of that disaster are vastly different from those of the PS752 crash. The recent event, he said, drew immediate global attention due to the increasing volatility of the security climate in the Middle East and what he called the “world fright” about what might happen next in the U.S-Iran conflict.The news cycle and the media landscape also have changed in the decades since Air India, he said.

“It became an international story immediately because of the relationships in the Middle East, which had absolutely nothing to do with Air India,” he said. “I don’t know you can draw much of a parallel.”

Major said there’s “no doubt” the Air India victims were treated differently because they were considered Indian, or “late-come Canadians,” but he said Canada’s mishandling of the disaster had more to do with government authorities passing the buck.

‘India’s problem’

“Their first reaction was that it’s India’s problem, not ours,” he said.

Sociologist Sherene Razack, who provided expert testimony during the Air India inquiry on whether racism played a role in the government’s response to the bombing, said it was a “positive moment” to hear the federal government claim those who died in this week’s crash as Canada’s own.

“Few in the media even did the usual hyphenation and simply said Canadians died in the crash,” said Razack, now a professor at UCLA. “This was a remarkable difference from the response to Air India and I can only hope that it signals some progress on the racism front …

“Is it possible that the nation has begun to change? I can only hope so.”

Andrew Griffith, a former senior immigration official who now researches diversity and multiculturalism, said he regards Canada’s current response as an “encouraging reminder” of how Canadians have evolved in terms of how they see, accept and embrace fellow citizens who are immigrants or members of visible minorities.

“What really struck me, as these horrific stories came out, was the reference is ‘Canadian.’ It wasn’t even Iranian-Canadian. It was simply these are Canadians, this is a Canadian issue and tragedy,” he said.

“I don’t think any of that really happened in the early years following Air India.”

Griffith suggested one possible reason for the change is the fact that Canada is now far more diverse than it was at the time of Air India, when visible minorities represented a smaller, newer share of the population.

“Now it is part of the Canadian reality,” he said. “That’s a sea-change, in my view.”

After Air India, the Indo-Canadian community was bitterly resentful of the authorities they believed failed to take the investigation seriously.

Canadians’ reaction to the Ukrainian airline crash represents a “180-degree shift,” Griffith said.

“It means that Iranian-Canadians will feel more accepted, more welcome, more integrated, more part of society, whereas with Indo-Canadians it dragged on and on,” he said.

For the family members of Air India victims, the pain remains fresh.

Eisha Marjara, who lost her mother and sister in the bombing, said she sees a difference in the response to the two disasters.

“The response for the Air India tragedy was disappointing and heartbreaking,” she said. “We were left in the dark for a long time.

“So seeing the way the prime minister and the media [have] swiftly and transparently handled the crash and prioritized the well being of the families of the victims is very encouraging.”

Source: cbc.ca/news/politics/…

International adoptions decline dramatically in Canada

An under-looked issue – the decline in the number of international options.

The previous government passed legislation granting citizenship to those adopted internationally (rather than through permanent residency) given considerable advocacy at the time by parents of internationally adopted children:

The number of international adoptions has declined dramatically in Canada in the last five years due to tighter country controls, exorbitant costs and alternative routes to parenthood.

Last year, there were only 793 international adoptions in Canada, according to data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). That’s the lowest number in decades, and nearly half the total from 2012, when there were 1,379 inter-country adoptions.

Deborah Brennan, chair of the Adoption Council of Canada, points to a number of factors driving the downward trend. These include hefty costs (an international adoption can cost up to $50,000) and an increasingly onerous administrative process that can take anywhere from 18 months to several years.

A growing number of countries have imposed restrictions or all-out bans on international adoptions, and many have developed stronger systems to encourage more adoptions within their own borders.

“I think they are paying more attention to making sure they create an infrastructure within their own country where they can take care of their children themselves,” Brennan said.

She sees the trend as potentially positive for adoptee children, because remaining in their countries of origin helps ensure their family connections, culture and ethnicity are not lost.

International adoptions in Canada

“Our preference is that kids do stay … in their own countries of origin because it is risky for kids to come here and lose that. Many parents who adopt internationally, in my opinion, can sometimes do not a great job of maintaining those ties and those roots,” she said.

More domestic adoptions?

While Canadians are increasingly using other ways to have a family, including surrogacy and in vitro fertilization, Brennan hopes fewer international adoptions will mean more domestic adoptions in Canada.

Right now, more than 30,000 children are available for adoption around the country.

Many of them are over six years old, are in sibling groups or are have visible special needs. Brennan said a big part of the problem with matching parents with children is a lack of social workers and a huge gap in the inter-provincial adoption system.

In 1993, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption imposed strict safeguards to make sure all adoptions were in the best interests of the child. It also adopted new measures to crack down on the abduction, sale and trafficking of children.

Some provincial and territorial authorities have imposed suspensions on certain countries of origin including:

  • Cambodia.
  • Georgia.
  • Guatemala.
  • Liberia.
  • Nepal.

Data shows that the number of international adoptions to Canada remained high in the aftermath of the Hague convention, with moderate fluctuations between 1999 and 2009 that ranged from 1,535 to 2,127.

Source: International adoptions decline dramatically in Canada – Politics – CBC News