Toronto: In a historic step on the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombing Wednesday, Canada formally accepted blame for the tragedy and apologised to the victim families.
"We are sorry... your pain is our pain... as you grieve so we grieve,`` Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the victim families at a memorial service here.
"This was not act of foreign violence. This atrocity was conceived in Canada, executed in Canada by Canadian citizens and its victims were themselves mostly citizens of Canada,`` the Prime Minister admitted.
Blamed on pro-Khalistan elements on Canada, the Air India flight 182 from Montreal to Delhi was blown off mid-air near Ireland June 23, 1985, killing all 329 passengers aboard.
"It was evil, perpetrated by cowards, despicable, senseless and vicious,`` he said.
"It should not have happened. It should have not happened,`` Harper said, drawing upon the conclusions of last week`s inquiry which blamed the Air India bombing on "a cascading series of errors`` by Canada.
"I stand before you to offer on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, an apology for the institutional failings of 25 years ago and the treatment of the victims` families,`` the prime minister said.
Since almost all victims were Indo-Canadians and Canadian governments till now have been reluctant to embrace it as a Canadian tragedy, Harper added, "Canadians who sadly didn`t at first accept that the outrage was made in Canada accept it now. (But) we wish this realisation had gained common acceptance earlier.``
In a blunt warning to pro-Khalistan militant elements blamed for the tragedy, the prime minister said, "It is incumbent upon us all not to reach out to, but marginalize those extremists who seek to import the battles of India`s past here and then to export them back to that great and forward-looking nation (India). We must have none of it.``