Tara Singh Hayer

‘We will not stop, we cannot allow those people to win’

Paris slaying of 12 people sparks memories of the assassination of Surrey publisher Tara Singh Hayer.

Kevin Diakiw

While still in bed Wednesday morning, Dave Hayer reached for his Blackberry at 6:30 a.m. and scrolled through the news items.

He froze when he read about the killing of 12 people at a newspaper in Paris, France.

It caused a chilling rush of déja vu for the former Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead.

The news accounts described how three attackers wearing black and wielding Kalashnikov automatic rifles stormed the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and shot 10 journalists and two police officers. All died in the attack.

On Thursday, one of the suspects turned himself in to police and on Friday, and the two other men involved were killed by police after taking a woman hostage in a printing plant north of Paris.

A fourth gunman who took five people hostage in a grocery store in southeast Paris and who is believed to be connected to the gunmen was also killed by police.

Officials now also say the fatal shooting of a female police officer in France on Thursday is also connected to the deadly attack at Charlie Hebdo.

The motive in the magazine shooting is believed to be the satirical publication’s unflattering caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Terrible memories flooded back for Hayer, whose father, Tara Singh Hayer, was gunned down for the pointed editorials he wrote in his newspaper The Indo-Canadian Times.

The connection for Dave was immediate.

“Right away it brought memories of the 1988 shooting (of my father),” he said in an interview with The Leader Thursday.

Tara was publisher of The Times and was shot several times at his office in August of 1988 for his sharp criticism of the people responsible for Air India bombings, Dave Hayer said.

Two bullets struck his arm, two hit him in the back, and one pierced his turban. He was paralyzed and left wheelchair-bound.

His response?

As soon as he was able, Tara Singh Hayer went back to the newspaper office and kept writing critical articles.

“He said, ‘Look, we don’t give up,’ and my mom said the same thing: ‘We want to keep the paper running,’ Hayer recalls.

His mother kept that stance even when her husband was shot to death in the garage of his home in November 1998.

“We will not stop, we cannot allow those people to win,” Hayer remembers his mother saying.

The Indo-Canadian Times is still running today and on page three (the paper’s editorial front) of Wednesday’s paper, it carries a story about the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

In hindsight, Dave Hayer said he wouldn’t have urged his father to act any differently.

“Just like any media, you write the stories and some people don’t like what you’re writing,” Hayer said. “You can’t allow them to stop freedom of the press just because they don’t like it.

He said there are other mechanisms, through the courts, to deal with disagreements with the press.

If the media is silenced by acts of violence, everyone loses, he said.

“We lose freedom of the press, we lose our democracy,” Dave Hayer said. “Many people have paid with their lives, keeping our democracy alive, and we all have to work together making sure we condemn terrorism.

Speaking in Delta on Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a crowd the shootings in Paris were another act in a “declaration of war” by international jihadists.

“The trio of hooded men struck at some of our most cherished democratic principles, freedom of expression, freedom of the press,” Harper said. “They assaulted democracy everywhere.

“The fact of the matter is this… that the international jihadist movement has declared war,” he continued. “They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and actThey have declared war on any country like ourselves that values freedom, openness and tolerance.

“We may not like this and wish it would go away, but it is not going to go away. The reality is, we are going to have to confront it.

Tara Singh Hayer is one of two Canadian journalists who have been killed on Canadian soil.

In 1995, Toronto TV sportscaster Brian Smith died after he was shot in the head by a man waiting outside the station’s building in Ottawa. The man held a grudge against the media.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 journalists were killed around the world in 2014 while on duty.

In 1999, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression included a new award category in its annual Press Freedom Award program. The Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award recognizes a Canadian journalist who, through their work, has made an important contribution to reinforcing and promoting the principle of freedom of the press in this country ore elsewhere.

The following year, Tara Singh Hayer was named one of the 50 World Press Freedom Heroes by the International Press Institute.

with files from Kolby Solinski