Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and University of Alberta President David Turpin listens to speeches during a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane disaster in Iran this past week in Edmonton, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

‘All Canadians stand with you:’ Trudeau says Iran plane crash families will get answers

All 176 on board were killed, including 138 who were headed for Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s been “gut-wrenching” to listen to stories from relatives of 57 Canadians who perished in the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran last week.

Speaking at a memorial in Edmonton on Sunday, Trudeau said he has learned many of the victims came to Canada in search of new opportunities for their families, but those families are now consumed by grief and outrage.

The plane was shot down by an Iranian missile moments after taking off from Tehran on Wednesday. All 176 on board were killed, including 138 who were headed for Canada.

Iran has admitted the plane was mistaken for a hostile target amid soaring tensions with the United States.

While the tragedy has hit the Iranian-Canadian community hard, Trudeau called it a Canadian tragedy.

“While no words can ease the pain, the grief, the outrage, it is my sincere hope that you can find some comfort in knowing that all Canadians stand with you,” he said.

“This tragedy should never have occurred.

“We will not rest until there are answers. We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.”

Trudeau said some of those who died were brilliant minds at the University of Alberta.

One was a husband who lost his wife and 10-year-old son, a boy who one day wanted to be prime minister.

He also spoke of a successful dentist in Iran who had moved with his family to Canada but returned often to Iran so he could pay for courses to become a dentist here. He received his qualifications a few weeks ago.

“He was finally coming here for good, to build the best possible future for his kids,” Trudeau said. “Except that he was on that flight, and now his family has no idea what their future holds.”

Other memorials were held Sunday across the country.

At the Vancouver Art Gallery, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan called the crash a national tragedy and said the government will work tirelessly to get answers for grieving families.

At the University of Toronto, many cried throughout the ceremony as speakers listed victims, including a one-year-old. People broke out in raucous applause several times when various speakers and politicians said Iran would be held accountable.

READ MORE: Iran police shoot at those protesting plane shootdown, videos show

Fati Mortazavi, whose best friend died in the crash, said having a community come together helped her cope with the tragedy.

“It’s so comforting for us,” said Mortazavi. ”As long as we know that someone cares for these people, that’s so important for us.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attended the vigil in Toronto and said the loss goes well beyond the university.

“This is Toronto’s loss, this is Ontario’s loss and this is Canada’s loss,” an emotional Freeland told the vigil. “Nothing will ever replace these brilliant lives that have been cut short. We will always … bear these scars.”

The Canadian Press has independently confirmed at least 74 victims with ties to Canada, many of them students and professors returning after spending the December break visiting relatives in Iran.

Three members of Canada’s standing rapid deployment team arrived Saturday in Iran to establish a base of operations for the Canadian government in the wake of the crash.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Sunday that Iran has approved visas for six more members of the team, who are currently in Ankara, Turkey, as well as for two experts from the Transportation Safety Board.

The eight are to travel to Iran on Monday, Champagne said in a series of tweets.

A spokesman for Champagne said the officials ”will be there to provide consular assistance to the families of the victims, including supporting repatriation of remains, to help identify victims and to assist in the investigation.”

The TSB said Sunday it also plans to deploy a second team of investigators who specialize in aircraft recorder download and analysis.

The government’s efforts to get officials on the ground in Tehran have been complicated by the fact that Canada severed all ties with Iran in 2012, shuttering its embassy and recalling all diplomats.

After initially insisting Iran’s military had no role in the crash, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted in a tweet early Saturday that the plane was mistaken for a hostile target and accidentally shot down minutes after taking off from Tehran’s international airport.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke to Rouhani on Saturday, said he demanded that Canada be fully involved in the investigation, including gaining access to the airplane’s black boxes, and being allowed to participate in DNA identification of the victims. He also demanded consular access for Canadian officials to work with grieving families of Canadian victims in Iran.

The downing of the jetliner came just hours after Iran had launched missile attacks on military bases in Iraq where U.S. forces are stationed, in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general.

Rouhani’s admission that “missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash” sparked two days of protests in Iran.

—With files from Colette Derworiz in Edmonton, Hina Alam in Vancouver and Salmaan Farooqui in Toronto

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey baseball association loses ‘a true giant’ in Bruce Lawson

Longtime volunteer ‘always gave his heart and soul to Surrey Canadian and the game of baseball’

Surrey School District forecasts up to 30 per cent of students will return to class this week

Education Minister Rob Fleming said on June 1, about 60,000 B.C. children returned to school

Clover Valley Beer Festival cancelled

Cloverdale beer fest falls victim to COVID-19

South Surrey’s Darts Hill Garden Park to re-open – by appointment

City of Surrey-run garden will be open to visitors Thursday through Saturday

Surrey Mounties respond to report of shots fired in Cloverdale

They took 12 people into custody but found no evidence shots were actually fired

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Parent, superintendent, trustee report smooth return to classrooms in B.C.

The biggest challenge is convincing families that it’s safe, some say

Two more COVID-19 cases reported by Langley long term care facility

One resident, one staffer have tested positive for the coronavirus

Most Read