The decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the Jassi Sidhu murder case to not extradite to India her mother and maternal uncle to face murder charges has left me angry — an angry Indian and an angry Canadian. The court of appeal rested its rejection of the Indian request for extradition on the potential of the accused facing torture in Indian custody. The court refused to accept as sufficient the assurance provided to it by former Minister of Justice Peter McKay that the Canadian consular officials would ensure the accused would be treated fairly in India.
Jassi Sidhu who was brutally murdered at the behest of her mother and uncle for marrying a man in India from a ‘lower’ caste against her family’s dictat continues to be denied justice. In India the men who carried out Sidhu’s murder and tried to kill her husband have been successfully prosecuted and their appeals are wending their way through the courts.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) didn’t initially take seriously at all the criminality of the role of the Canadian accused in this case.
- The story of four days: An extradition that wasn’t
- Jassi murder case: Punjab cops way back from Canada empty-handed
- Punjab honour killing case: Canada court stays extradition of victim’s mother and uncle
- Honour killing’: Canada hands over custody of accused
- Jassi honour killing: What did they get out of it? Our love has only grown, says husband
- Canada extradites two to India over honour killing
For the longest time the RCMP didn’t feel the murder of Canadian Jassi Sidhu in India was worth investigating. Then the pressure from the activists and media mounted. The RCMP began the investigation and finally we are where we are: the court of appeal believes there is strong evidence of murder against the accused; under ordinary circumstances the accused would have been ordered extradited by the court of appeal; however according to the court the potential for torture, assaults and lack of ‘proper’ health care in Indian custody stands in the way of justice for Jassi Sidhu.
India is not a perfect society. Its justice system is not perfect. But it is a democracy where there is the fear of exposure and denunciation for any wrong that may happen. And I do understand that denunciation after the fact is no comfort for the victims of wrong doing by the state. But what is troubling about this decision is the implicit assumption that every Indian prison cell is a potential torture chamber.
Jassi Sidhu’s murder is not the first time Canada has failed to do justice to victims of crime. The crimes of Canadian society against the aboriginal Canadians in the form of cultural genocide of the residential schools are a case in point; another is the more recent neglect and lack of due diligence in the matter of missing and murdered aboriginal women in British Columbia and across Canada. And there are many more such instances.
The 1985 bombing of Air India (Kanishka) flight 182 was planned and executed on and from the Canadian soil by Canadian citizens while the Canadian security establishment was asleep at the switch. The murder of 329 Air India passengers, mostly Canadians of Indian origin, happened under the very noses of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and for the longest time it was not thought of or treated as a Canadian tragedy; and that had to do with many in Canada believing that Canadian violence on the Canadian soil victimising Canadians — the perpetrators and the victims being Indians like me — was not a Canadian problem.
The fact of the initial — official and unofficial — Canadian disconnect from the truth of Canadian terror that blew up the Air India flight 182 over the ocean off the Irish coast had everything to do with racism at the time.
The trial of the Air India accused Ripudaman Malik and Ajaib Bagri took place in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The accused were acquitted because the court found unreliable the evidence of many of the material witnesses who happened to be Canadians of Indian origin.
One may agree or disagree with, like or dislike the decision of the BC Court of Appeal in Jassi Sidhu’s murder.
What troubles me and leaves me angry is the terrible truth that circumstances and international failings continue to conspire against justice for the brutal taking of Jasssi Sidhu’s life.