Thursday, March 17, 2005


It was Canada's 9/11 and we blew it
victim's daughter

Stewart Bell
National Post

March 17, 2005

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MISSISSAUGA - Esther Venketeswaran was asleep in her parents' room when her mother came home early from her nursing shift at Bethesda Home and said, "Something's the matter with your father's plane."

They turned on the radio in the kitchen and listened as the CFRB announcer reported that an Air-India flight outbound from Canada had gone down off the coast of Ireland. All 329 on board were believed dead.

Friends took Esther, then 15, and her brother David, 13, to McDonald's for breakfast and told them their father was strong and he might be out there somewhere clinging to a piece of debris, but she knew she would never see him again.

"It just devastated us," she said.

Yesterday, a B.C. judge found Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri not guilty of conspiring to plant the bomb that brought down Air-India Flight 182 on June 23, 1985.

"I had a feeling, so I'm not surprised," Esther's mother, Ann Venketeswaran, said after the verdict was read to stunned relatives in a Vancouver courtroom. "I feel very, very sad. I mean, somebody did it."

Esther, now 34, said the verdict would not make any meaningful difference. She is angry at not only those behind the bombing, but also a government she believes has neither confronted terrorism nor cared for its victims.

During an interview at her Mississauga apartment, her photos of her father spread on the coffee table next to the Bible she took with her when she attended the trial in Vancouver, she noted that after the Palestine Liberation Organization murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israel sent the Mossad secret service to hunt down the killers. After 9/11, George W. Bush declared war against terrorists.

Canada's response to the Air-India bombing was by comparison "apathetic and indifferent," she said. The police investigation faltered. Some Canadian Sikhs vehemently denied members of their community were involved.


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