On June 23, 1985 a bomb detonated on Air India Flight 182 en route from Toronto to New Delhi via Montreal. The mid-air explosion killed all 329 passengers and crew, the majority of whom were South Asian Canadians, including 82 children under the age of 13. Canadians of Italian, Irish, and Quebecois heritage were included among the dead. It resulted in the longest and most expensive criminal investigations in Canadian history; a judicial public inquiry that concluded (in 2010) that the bombing was “a Canadian Tragedy” and “the largest mass murder in Canadian history”; and the government’s public apology (also in 2010) for “institutional failings and the mistreatment of families.”
These events have left indelible marks on the Canadian psyche but remain underestimated facets of our collective history. As Professor Sherene Razack noted in her expert witness testimony at the Air India public inquiry, “Canadians do not recall June 23,1985. As a nation, we were not shaken, transformed and moved to change our own institutional practices for a tragedy we considered had little to do with us.” Family members of those who perished continue to note the absence of any deep cultural engagement with the bombing except for occasional government sponsored events and academic symposia wherein public outreach is separated from learned gatherings.
This 30th anniversary conference on the Air India tragedy will be the first of its kind, bringing together creative artists, family members of those who died in the bombing of Air India Flight 182, scholars, students, and the wider public to engage in a dialogue about the Air India tragedy and its aftermath. It will offer opportunities to exchange knowledge between Humanities and Social Science scholars; between scholars and cultural producers; and between scholars, creative artists, Air India family members, and the general public.
Situating the Air India tragedy and its aftermath within local, national and transnational contexts and temporalities, this conference seeks to raise more widespread awareness of the tragedy and its continuing impact on our shared present and future. The conference will be free and open to the public: students, teachers, cultural producers, families directly impacted by the tragedy, and the community-at-large. It will feature keynote addresses, research panels and roundtables, and creative performances and artists’ talks. There will also be an exhibition of internationally-acclaimed writers on the first day of the conference. Our hope is prompt a public conversation about this little remembered event in Canadian history and public memory.
Books by participating artists will be displayed and available for purchase at the conference site through Bryan Prince Bookseller.