Saturday, May 18, 2024

Air India ‘Kanishka’ plane crash anniversary: Poll finds most Canadians know little about nation’s deadliest terror attack

On June 23, 1985, 329 people, 280 of them Canadian citizens, died when an explosion brought down Air India Flight 182 (Kanishka) on its way to London, England.

The flight originated in Canada and crashed off the coast of Ireland. No one on board survived. Yet 38 years later, few Canadians remember this, the deadliest terrorist incident in Canada’s history.

A new Angus Reid Institute study finds that nine-in-ten Canadians say they have little (61%) or no (28%) knowledge of the worst single instance of the mass killing of their fellow citizens, with three-in-five (58%) of those younger than 35 saying they have never even heard of it. In British Columbia, where the conspiracy to commit the bombings was hatched, and Ontario, where many of the victims lived, awareness is higher, but fewer than one-in-six in each province say they know a lot about the attack.

As some Canadians – evidently few – reflect on the 38th anniversary of Canada’s worst terrorist tragedy, the sense among many is that more should be done to remember the victims. Among those who are most aware, more than two-in-five (42%) say that Canada has not done enough. This is perhaps reflected in the low levels of awareness among the population.

Just one-in-ten (11%) Canadians say they “know a lot” about the incident. Awareness is higher in B.C., home to the conspirators in the bombings, and Ontario, where the ill-fated flight originated. Meanwhile, more than two-in-five (46%) in Quebec say they are completely unaware of the event.

Canadians who were born after the Air India Bombings are most likely to say they had not heard of the tragedy. More than half of men aged 18 to 34 (53%), and three-in-five women that age (62%), say they are not aware of the event. One-quarter (23%) of men aged 55-plus say they know a lot about the incident, double the rate of any other demographic.

Since 2005, 20 years after the tragedy, Canadians have been observing the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism in memory of the 280 who lost their lives in the Air India Bombings. Still, only one-in-five (19%) identify it correctly as one of the worst acts of mass murder in Canadian history. The shootings around Portapique, Nova Scotia (24%) and the massacre at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal (29%) are selected at higher rates. One-in-ten (9%) believe it was 9/11.

It took 22 years before the victims were recognized with formal memorials in Canada, built in Toronto and Vancouver in 2007.

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