There were a lot of people gasping for breath at the findings of Justice Ian Josephson of the BC Supreme Court in setting free two men accused of murder and conspiracy in the deaths of 329 people in the Air India bombing.
My connection to the case was a result of a company I was involved with selling a Sanyo stereo receiver. While it never was determined for certain that receiver contained one of the bombs that was used in the bombings of the Air India flight and the explosion of another Air India jet in Tokyo that killed two baggage handlers, the receiver had either come from the store in Prince George or Kamloops.
Because we had not kept a serial number record of the purchaser it was impossible to say who actually made the purchase. It was suffice to say however there was a strong connection with this city and Kamloops where one of the accused Ajaib Singh Bagri had lived prior to the June 23, 1985 explosion.
The other accused Ripudaman Singh Malik also walked out of the court a free man when the judge in the case said despite the efforts of the crown they had failed to prove any of the charges including the two counts of murder that both Malik and Bagri had been facing.
Since that time there has been a lot of finger pointing and a close examination of the events are warranted. First and foremost blaming the judge in the matter is simply not right. Judges are handed a set of rules if you wish to make it in the simplest terms. They are required by law to interpret those rules that the government of the day has passed.
There have been many instances that I have known where the judge in question feels just as you and I that the party charged is guilty as hell but he or she must set them free because of that old standard, “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Some 40 years ago as a young reporter I enquired one day of a judge friend of mine, why guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, he replied, “I would sooner let 10 men or women go free rather then sentence one innocent person to jail for life.” That simply is the standard that I believe still exists today.
There are however new hurdles to overcome that being that the federal parliament has increasingly been shifting the heat from laws that they pass onto the courts. It is those same federal MPs who make the laws and then hide behind the decisions made by judges who are called upon to take the flack from bad laws. Justice Josephson will find that he will be called upon to fall on the sword for the bad job that a host of others had committed in reaching his findings.
Judges don’t openly talk so it is easy to make them a target of your frustrations for what in many instances is of your own making. Let’s be clear about one thing the timing of the bombing couldn’t have come at a worse time. The RCMP and CSIS had just parted ways. You had the RCMP brass not wanting to give a inch to the new marshal in town given the fact that even when they were attached to the RCMP they were referred to as, “I spy” and had the authority of a water boy at a baseball game under the old RCMP structure. So suddenly this new group who feel that they are akin to the CIA south of the 49th are flexing their muscles and so one side definitely is not talking to the other. Case in point the most crucial evidence was wiped off a tape by CSIS who felt they were above getting involved.
Then the witnesses. Many of them watched as one dedicated individual who wanted the truth to come out was gunned down. Just as the recent murder of a member of the Renegades motorcycle club has made a lot of folks very reluctant to talk so did the posturing in the Air India trial have the same set effect?
So we as Canadians dropped $100 million into an investigation that has still to bring the people who committed the crime to justice. I am sure everyone is wondering just how much justice can you afford.
While it is fine to say that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, you can’t help but wonder just how many every day souls who in fact are not guilty of the charge that they face must bend over and plead guilty because they simply don’t have the kind of money needed to get a fair hearing. It is difficult to even imagine how those left behind felt at the decision reached by the court. They simply had been crying out for justice and the comments that terrorism will increase in Canada as a result surely must be born out of frustration.
Do you spend another $100 million trying to prove the point? You’re not likely to receive many takers on that and most people today are saying they will leave the ultimate decision up to a higher authority than us.
In the end it is a sad commentary of a system that has run amok. Changing it will take a rank and file population that says we demand change from our political leaders. We have been paying dearly and receiving little.