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Canada Compensations Historically Approach $25,000, Air India Families Told

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Compensations historically approach
$25,000, Air India families told

By Steven Chase and Robert Matas
From Friday's Globe and Mail -
October 22, 2010


Government opens discussions with relatives of bombing victims

The Harper government has opened discussions over compensation with relatives of Air India victims by telling them that payouts historically awarded in similar situations range from $20,000 to $25,000 per victim.

However it made no offer during meetings Friday with relatives of those killed in the 1985 airline bombing.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews gathered with relatives of Air India victims in Toronto Friday - with others calling in via telephone - to discuss what form the government's response to the Major inquiry report should take.

The June report from Mr. Justice John Major into the 25-year-old Air India bombing detailed the federal government's bungling of the ensuing investigation and urged, among other things, symbolic compensation. This would be what are ex-gratia payments made without admission of legal liability.

As it is, most Air India victims families received out-of-court settlement payments a few years after the bombing, based on what was known at that time about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. The payments, from insurance settlements, were never officially announced. But government documents released under access to information law, and interviews with family members, suggest the average payment was $75,000 (U.S.) for each person killed. Some who lost high-income family members received more.

In discussing a possible federal government payment Friday, sources say Canadian officials told the Air India victims' families that historically such compensation has ranged from $20,000 to $25,000.

This includes payments for the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, the compensation for the Chinese head tax and ex-gratia payouts for the spraying of Agent Orange at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Two-hundred-and-eighty Canadians died in the Air India bombing.

Promode Sabharwal, who lost his 12-year old daughter in the Air India disaster, took the Friday discussion with ministers and officials to mean that Ottawa intends to pay out only $25,000 to the families of each victim.

He said he did not have an amount in mind but added he was surprised and disappointed at the figure.

"It should be reasonable. $25,000 - how far can it go and what is the use of it? I don't know. I cannot say anything more. Whatever they are doing, they should know better."

Mr. Sabharwal suggested Ottawa consider the payments that were made to victims of terrorism in other high profile cases, such as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The Libyan government paid out $10-million to relatives of each victim.

"I do not know what they are up to, what they think," Mr. Sabharwal said of the Harper government.

"We have been waiting and waiting and waiting. They spend millions on the RCMP [investigation] - on this-and-that things."

The meeting in Toronto lasted about one-and-a-half hours. Mr. Sabharwal listened by telephone from his home in Montreal. He said he heard views expressed by family members in Vancouver, and elsewhere. Some people said they would give the money to a charity on behalf of the government of Canada.

A source familiar with the deliberations said the discussion of previous compensation did not constitute an offer.

"There was no suggestion the government has a predetermined outcome or made a decision. Those were simply mentioned as factual historical reference points so people understand what has happened before."

Perviz Madon, whose husband was on the flight, said the families were brought up-to-date on what the government was doing. "It was a preliminary get-together," she said in an interview.

Ms. Madon, who lives in Vancouver, phoned in to the meeting in Toronto. The phone line was not always clear but she heard that the two ministers were at the meeting.

The federal ministers gave examples of previous settlements but they did not come up with an amount that Ottawa intended to provide to the Air India families, she also said.

Nevertheless, some family members were upset with what they heard.

She was not concerned. "They are not doing anything right now," she said.




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