|Family members of Air India Flight 182 victims look for names on the ceremonial wall during the 25th anniversary memorial ceremony held at Humber Bay Park. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - RCMP Sgt. G. Sidhu vows to jail the elusive bombers of Air India Flight 182 who killed 329 people in a tragedy that's being called "Canada's own 9/11."
Sidhu of Surrey, B.C. is a six-year member of an Air India Investigative Team whose officers have been plugging away for 27 years to solve one of the worst mass murders in history.
"That was one of the worst cases of aviation terrorism in Canada," Sidhu said. "That was Canada's own 9/11."
She said the lengthy probe is "very active" and suspects are being sought in Canada and abroad.
Some 280 Canadians were among those killed in June 1985 when a bomb sent the Boeing 747 crashing into the Atlantic Ocean over Ireland.
Inderjit Singh Reyat, 59, was sentenced in January 2011 to nine years in prison for perjury stemming from his time as a Crown witness during a 2003 trial. He was given 17 months credit for time already served, reducing his sentence to seven years.
He was acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy in the bombing but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a five-year sentence in 2002. He has already served a 10-year term for the killing of two baggage handlers the same day at Tokyo's Narita airport.
"A lot of people don't remember the case," Sidhu says. "The investigation is still open and there are leads that are being followed."
Bal Gupta, president of Air India 182 Victims Families Association, said he has been hoping for arrests for years.
"There is always a slim hope," Gupta said. "From time to time, the police get leads that don't seem to go anywhere."
His son, Susheel, 37, a lawyer and acting chair of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, said he is the same age of his mom when she perished on the ill-fated Montreal-to-Delhi, India, flight. He was 12 years old when she was murdered.
"I have a newborn daughter and we wish my mom could see her," Susheel said. "This incident plays a very big part of my life today."
Sidhu was among 175 airport investigators from 75 agencies in five countries who were in Toronto last week for a three-day International Airport Investigators' Training Symposium organized by Joint Forces Operation -- a group that includes officers from the RCMP, Toronto and Peel Regional Police, Canada Border Services Agency and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Her presentation, like many others, were held in private sessions due to the classified information being discussed.
However, airport security was one of the issue high up on the agenda.
Det. Malcolm Bow, who recently retired from Peel Regional Police, said thieves travel to busy airports in different countries to prey on travellers.
Bow said other crime gangs, whose members work at Pearson International Airport, steal goods from the bags of travellers. Police are also probing ramp handlers who remove drugs from arriving flights and smuggle the contraband out of the airport.
"There is a tremendous amount of theft that takes place at airports," Bow said. "Airports are a magnet for criminals and there are thefts taking place every day."
His former Criminal Investigation Bureau office has files and photographs of dozens of suspected pickpockets and distraction thieves -- many from South America -- who have been arrested at Pearson.
Airport cops rounded up 17 Peruvian pickpockets in 2009 who were accused of stealing $500,000 from travellers at Pearson during a six-month period. A number of them had claimed refugee status in Canada.
Yoav Lorbert, security manager of El Al Israel Airlines, said absolutely no one is allowed on the airline's parked jets.
Lorbert adds ground workers must show identification and are then taken on board by security officials.
"Everyone has to undergo body and bag checks before they can go on board," Lorbert said. "We don't take any risk whatsoever."
His officials also check for suicide bombers and single women travelling alone who may have had explosives planted in their bags.
Lorbert has investigated several attacks against El Al including one in 2002 at a ticket counter at Los Angeles Airport that left two people dead and three others wounded. Airline staff killed the gunman.
He was present during a 1985 attack in Rome when terrorists threw grenades and opened fire at an El Al counter killing 17 people and wounding more than 100.
And it's no wonder that former cop Jeff Weyers is working on a method to identify people vulnerable to violent extremism.
Weyers, a doctoral student at the University of Liverpool, said his study will help police stop those who are being recruited as terrorists and divert them from the lifestyle.
"We want to divert them from terrorism," he said. "We will able to detect if people are on their way to becoming extremists."
He claims Canada is being targeted by militant groups including Babba Khalsa, Tamil Tigers and Islamic cells.
Special Agent Joseph Burke of the Department of Homeland Security Bulk Cash Smuggling Center, said a crackdown by banks has forced criminals to hire couriers to smuggle funds into the U.S.
"We believe the smuggled money goes to fund terrorist activities," Burke said. "In many cases, people are contracted by smugglers to move money across the border for a set fee."
He said most cash being smuggled is found in the hidden compartments of vehicles or on people.
"We are seeing some cases where the cash is wrapped up in condoms and swallowed by people to avoid detection," Burke said. "Swallowed money can still show up on X-rays."
The symposium, a first of its kind, attracted top police from across Canada, the U.S., Israel, Colombia and Aruba.
Maj. William Gustavo Ojeda Arevalo of the Colombian National Police said his country's fight against cocaine smuggling brought him to Toronto to reach out to other officers.
"We are working hard to stop the flow of drugs," Arevalo adds. "It affects our entire society and country."
He said most of Colombia's cocaine is smuggled to Mexico, which acts as a "warehouse," from where it is shipped to the U.S., Europe and Canada.
Smugglers are now using narco-subs, or "Bigfoot submarines," a type of custom-made ocean-going, self-propelled vessel, to smuggle tonnes of cocaine to North America without being detected.