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Family's hope for justice thwarted by faulty camera

In the nine years since Surrey, B.C., journalist Tara Singh Hayer was assassinated in his own garage, his family has clung to the hope that an RCMP surveillance camera pointed at the driveway would one day produce an arrest.

Those hopes have now been dashed.

The public inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing compelled the government and police to admit what they have never told the Hayer family: The recording system was broken and there is no tape.

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"We still hoped that everything was there," Mr. Hayer's son Dave told the inquiry yesterday. "It was only when I read these documents that I found out actually that nothing works, because nobody came back to us and explained this is what had happened."

Mr. Hayer was the publisher of the Surrey-based Indo-Canadian Times, which he used as a platform to speak out against Sikh extremism and the Air India bombing. He was preparing to name those he believed responsible for the bombing at the Air India trial when he was killed.

Dave Hayer, who is now a Liberal member of the B.C. Legislature, and his wife, Isabelle Martinez Hayer, told an emotional story yesterday of a newspaper publisher willing to help the RCMP - and a police force that let the Hayer family down. Dave Hayer said the assassination and the regular death threats that preceded the attack continue to haunt his mother, who he said barely sleeps at night.

"She always tells me, 'They [the RCMP]promised me nothing will happen because we watch and we're helping,' " Mr. Hayer testified yesterday.

Although 22 years have passed since the bombing, the Hayers said Sikh extremism in B.C. and the threat of terror are just as real now as then. Mr. Hayer urged all political parties to stop courting support from ethnic groups with ties to terror.

The couple chastised politicians - including B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell - for taking part in an April 7 Vaisakhi parade in Surrey. A float in the parade glorified Talwinder Singh Parmar, the alleged mastermind of the Air India bombing.

The couple said many in Vancouver's Indo-Canadian community live in fear of Sikh extremists. People who speak out receive telephone threats against their children's lives, they testified.

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The extremists hold senior positions at temples and area schools, but moderate Indo-Canadians do not believe Canadian authorities understand the situation, she said.

"We are a very naïve country," Ms. Martinez Hayer said. "I'm very proud to be a Canadian. However, I refuse to let terrorists and criminals dictate what is going to be happening in my community."

Politicians, community leaders and police must show leadership in confronting these individuals, she said, rather than joining them in a parade glorifying Mr. Parmar.

"If that had been Osama bin Laden, I doubt very much that the police would have been leading on horse, proudly, the head of that parade."

The inquiry also heard new details about the degree of involvement Tara Singh Hayer had with CSIS and the RCMP, including an aborted covert operation to fly Mr. Hayer to London to gather information while wearing a wiretap.

His writings led to death threats by fax and phone, as well as public calls for Mr. Hayer's demise broadcast on ethnic radio stations in British Columbia. In August, 1988, an assassination attempt at his newspaper left him paralyzed from the waist down.

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At times the family urged Mr. Hayer to stop writing, but he always refused.

"His answer was, 'My stance is terrorism is wrong. Killing innocent people is wrong,' " his son Dave said. "How can I ask someone else to stand up if I am not willing to stand up myself?"

Hours after Mr. Hayer's assassination in 1998, the family devoted themselves overnight to reporting the news in the Indo-Canadian Times.

"The words I heard from my mom was, 'We have to keep this paper alive,' " he said, fighting back tears. "That was the first time that I really understood why we have to stand up."

Laurie MacDonell, the RCMP officer who was in regular contact with Mr. Hayer, said Mr. Hayer's security was always a challenge and recalled telling the publisher to scale back his journalism.

"I may have discussed with him on occasions, maybe in his articles ... maybe he'd want to consider maybe not pushing these groups as much," Sergeant MacDonell said yesterday. "In an ideal world or another situation, somebody might decide to stop what they are doing that is causing someone else to be upset with you or maybe cause you harm; maybe move away or take some action like that.

"He was not interested in that whatsoever."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More


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