Air India report: CJFE calls for killers of journalist to be brought to justice

A long-awaited report on an inquiry in the 1984 Air India bombing shines
light on the connection between the Air India case and the attempted
and subsequent murder of journalist Tara Singh Hayer.

Tara Singh HayerHayer was a loud, dedicated voice in Canada’s journalism community who died because of the stories he wrote. His murderers have never been brought to justice. Read the story of Hayer’s life, death and the years-long investigation that still continues today.

In a press release, CJFE writes (repeated in full below):

“More than 60 pages of the report are devoted to a thorough analysis of Tara Singh Hayer’s role as a key witness in the Air India case, the threats and attacks on Hayer that resulted because of his information about the case, and heartbreakingly, the RCMP’s inability to provide Hayer and his family with the protection that he needed and asked for.

CJFE calls upon the RCMP to heed the findings of the report and renew their investigation into the killers of Tara Singh Hayer. “With no progress on the murder investigation for almost twelve years, Canada joins a very disreputable group of countries that do not bring the killers of journalists to justice,” said Arnold Amber, CJFE President. “The names of the alleged killers have been printed many times, so the question remains why have they not been brought to court?”

Tara Singh Hayer was a leading member of the Sikh community in British Columbia, and was the editor of the Indo-Canadian Times. Hayer survived an attempted assassination attempt (which left him partially paralyzed) in 1988 and was murdered ten years later. In between, there were multiple threats again Hayer. Both the attempt and the murder appear to be connected to Hayer’s role as a key witness in the Air India trial.

The report provides a disturbing window into how the RCMP conducted the Air India investigation and the investigations into the attacks on Hayer. Major concludes that “The manner in which the RCMP handled the entire Hayer affair leaves much to be desired.” Factors in the mismanagement of Hayer’s case appear to have been the many departments that dealt with his case that did not communicate with each other, the inability to provide Hayer and his family with working surveillance equipment, a lack of understanding of the Sikh community, and an inability to translate evidence and preserve it.

In one example of the communications between the RCMP and Hayer, the journalist implores the RCMP to provide him with protection, saying “time is of the essence. I am not capable of defending myself as easily as I used to when I could walk. I look forward to your response.”

The police response was to question why Hayer hadn’t reported earlier threats, if this was such a timely matter, despite the fact that the RCMP had lengthy records of Hayer informing them of threats against his life.

The report states that Tara Sing Hayer’s son, Dave Hayer testified that “his father felt that the failure of the police to take any action led to a greater and greater escalation of the threats. He was of the view that, if the police had laid even minor charges against the perpetrators, it might have helped to prevent this escalation. Instead, he felt, police did not understand the culture and just “dismiss[ed] it.”

The RCMP did act after well-known Vancouver journalist Kim Bolan reported information of a hit list which included her name along with that of Hayer. The police installed video surveillance system at Hayer’s home. They checked the equipment every two to three weeks, but prior to Hayer’s murder there were signs that the equipment was malfunctioning. On November 18, 1998, Hayer was brutally murdered at his home. When RCMP checked the equipment after the murder, no footage was recorded on the day of the murder.

Major has this to say at the end of his report about the journalist,”tragically, the murder of Tara Singh Hayer, while he was supposedly under the watch of the RCMP, not only snuffed out the life of a courageous opponent of terrorism, but permanently foreclosed the possibility of his assistance in bringing the perpetrators of the bombing of Flight 182 to justice.”

Both the Air India murders and Hayer’s killing are a terrible blot on Canada’s history. The bringing of these killers to justice would bring some closure to the families and would send a strong message that Canada is not a safe haven for terrorists. Tara Singh Hayer was a courageous and indomitable journalist. His legacy should be so much more than being a Canadian journalist who was killed with impunity.”