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

Decor details: Professional rental and design businesses deliver it all

Stop by the Comox Community Centre on Jan. 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.!

North Island Bantam Eagles ice Clippers, clinch Tier 2 league banner

“We will enjoy the moment for now, but… it’s back to work on Tuesday”

Upgrades to Port Hardy arena hinge on grant funding

The district is waiting on grant approval from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program.

Scarlett Point lighthouse keeper wins a million bucks playing the lottery

“I usually just get a quick pick, so I didn’t expect to win a big prize”

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: North Island beauty

“don’t forget to look up and observe the beauty of the whole North Island”

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Prince Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Here is a list of some things you definitely should NOT do, according to the BBC

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Successful end to search for kayakers along the Island river

Father and son located tired and cold, but otherwise OK

Most Read