The National Post – Touched by Terrorism Special to the National Post
By Dave S. Hayer,
C-CAT was featured in a full page article in the Ideas Section of the National Post. The page tiled “Touched by Terrorism” featured four opinion pieces by Canadian terror victims who are members of C-CAT. Three other “first person” stories by Canadian terror victims and C-CT members were also published.
With the arrest of 17 men in Toronto on terrorism charges, the possibility of an attack on Canadian soil has hit home for many people. But Canada already has a history of being touched by terror. Here, four Canadians describe their own experiences with extremist violence. They are members of the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, an organization that lobbies for anti-terror legislation and for the right of victims to sue state and local sponsors of terrorism.
Dave Hayer is a Member of the B.C. Legislative Assembly, and Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism and Immigration. His father, newspaper editor Tara Singh Hayer was murdered by Sikh extremists in Vancouver in 1998.
The insidious cancer that is terrorism is all pervasive. No matter where we live, no matter our nationality, it touches us all in varying degrees of tragedy. And like cancer, so far there is no cure.
My father, Tara Singh Hayer tried to find one and paid for it with his life, the first journalist in Canada to die as result of his work. On Nov. 18, 1998, terrorists assassinated him in his home in British Columbia, preventing him from testifying in the worst incident of terrorism to affect this country — the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.
Three hundred and twenty-nine innocent men, women and children tragically died for absolutely no purpose. And at the same time, two workers died in Japan’s Narita Airport when a bomb that was part of the same plot blew up during baggage handling.
After the Air India and Narita Airport bombings, my father printed the names of the Air India bombing suspects in his Punjabi language newspaper. One week later an assassin tried to take his life. The assassination failed, but my father was left paralyzed with four bullets lodged in his body; permanently disabled and confined to a wheelchair.
That did not dampen his resolve, however, and on the editorial pages of his newspaper, the Indo Canadian Times (which remains in the family today), he continued to pursue justice for the families of all those who died on Flight 182.
My father was gunned down to prevent truth and justice from coming forward. He did not survive the final brutal assassination attempt in 1998.
With more than 20 years having elapsed since all those innocent lives were blasted out of the sky over Ireland, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new government is finally undertaking a public inquiry into the bombing.This inquiry, I hope, will result in changes to how our government addresses terrorist threats — ultimately preventing future terrorist activity, protecting innocent Canadians and preventing terrorists from having influence on our political system.
Throughout his life, my father fought for justice, tolerance and freedom. He came to Canada, working first as a miner, teacher and truck driver, believing all along that this country would provide the opportunity and tolerance that he sought. With those beliefs strong in his mind, he founded the Indo-Canadian Times, today the oldest and largest Punjabi newspaper in North America, which allowed him to campaign for freedom of expression, tolerance, peace and understanding between cultural groups and to argue that we should not be bringing the problems — violence and extremism — of other countries to Canada.
His target was the handful of violent Sikh extremists who were seeking to control the large, peaceful Indo-Canadian population of British Columbia in an effort to lend weight to their cause for an independent Sikh homeland in India. Those greed-filled extremists’ personal agendas only served to increase their personal wealth and power while destroying internationally the good image of Sikhs.
Like the bombing of Air India Flight 182, so far no terrorist has been brought to justice for the death of my father.
I BELIEVED ‘WE WERE SAFE’
The author who lost her husband on 9/11, is member of C-CAT who wishes not to be identified.
It has now been almost five years since I received the news that my husband, Thomas, had perished in the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11. The rubble has all but been removed from that site and the smoke which covered the New York landscape has cleared, but for some of us who lost our loved ones on that day, the wreckage of 9/11 is still a daily obstacle to be navigated.
I was born in a country that is no stranger to rubble and smoke. I came to Canada from Yugoslavia at the age of 26. As a young person living in Belgrade, I could not have imagined the implications of the sudden arrival of a steady stream of Islamist elements from foreign countries to the streets of my father’s native Bosnia — “elements” that would later be identified with al-Qaeda and would play a brutal role in the war that later ensued. But as an adult living so far away from the ethnic tensions that eventually engulfed the country of my birth, it seemed inconceivable that those same elements would bring their capacity for destruction into my home in Canada.
I guess that like most Canadians, I had lived with the assumption that terror was essentially a foreign problem — a problem that occasionally and only inadvertently seeped into our lives over here. I also believed that living in Canada or the U.S., we were safe from terrorism. This perception, which I believe is still commonplace in Canada, must be changed. It impedes our capacity to develop appropriate policies and strategies for protecting ourselves and our society from those whose total focus and life ambition is to destroy us and our way of life.
Whatever its roots, it is this perception, among others, which I believe allowed the victims of the Air India bombings to stand so terribly alone for so long. As a victim of 9/11 I cannot help but ask: How is it that the Air India bombings had so little resonance in North America? How is it that it took almost 20 years for Canada to ban the organization responsible for that massacre, as a terrorist entity?
I am therefore relieved that the federal government has decided to go ahead with a full inquiry into the Air India bombings, and I have joined forces with other terror victims to lobby for support of a new legislative initiative — a bill that will provide victims of terror the right to sue foreign governments and other sponsors of terror in Canadian courts. This bill is a victims’ initiative put together by the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT), was recently introduced in the Senate by Senator Dave Tkachuk and will be introduced today in the House of Commons by Nina Grewal.
I hope Canadians will stand with us in this endeavour, because it’s about all the Canadians out there who still don’t want to believe that it could happen to them.