We will not rest until we get justice, says Trudeau as he calls for credible investigation into downing of flight 752
|National Post 09 Jan 2020 at 21:39|
An Iranian surface-to-air missile is believed to have shot down a passenger jet that killed 63 Canadians, ripping through the plane just minutes after it took off in Tehran.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government had “multiple sources” indicating a missile brought down the plane killing all 176 people on board.
“In light of this new information it is now more important than ever that we know how such a tragedy could have happened,” he said. “The families of the victims and all Canadians want answers. I want answers. That means closure, accountability and justice. We will not rest until we get that.”
He added, “We recognize that this may have been done accidentally. But that makes it even more important to clarify what happened.”
Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 took off from Tehran’s airport on Wednesday morning and crashed just minutes into the flight on the outskirts of the city. In total, 138 of the passengers were bound for Canada. The deceased include newly-weds coming back to Canada, students set to start promising careers, young children, as well as academics and business professionals.
Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday, just minutes after taking off from the Iranian capital’s main airport, turning farmland on the outskirts of Tehran into fields of flaming debris and killing all on board. Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press
Trudeau held a press conference Thursday shortly after news reports emerged indicating U.S. intelligence officials had concluded the crash was the. U.S. satellites reportedly tracked the missile launch followed by an explosion a few minutes later.
Before Trudeau spoke, U.S. President Donald Trump said he believed that “somebody could have made a mistake,” when asked about the cause of the crash. He said the plane was in a “rough neighbourhood.”
the explanation that a missile could be involved. The country’s civil aviation authority has suggested a technical problem brought down the not yet four-year-old plane.
But Trudeau was clear the evidence suggested otherwise.
“We have intelligence from multiple sources including our allies and our own intelligence,” he said. “The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional.”
It is too early to say what tools could eventually be used depending on the final assessment, the final conclusion
Trudeau said Canada needs to have access to the site for a full investigation, to clarify exactly what happened.
“We have much to contribute and we have lost much in the loss of so many Canadian lives, so many families across this country grieving. We will be involved,” he said. “We have already been engaged with the Ukrainians, who are part of the investigation team, and Iran has indicated an openness to Canada being engaged as well.”
Late Thursday evening, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board announced it was accepting an invitation by Iranian investigators to visit the site.
Asked if the plane downing could be seen as an act of war, Trudeau said, “It is too early to draw definitive conclusions like that one, that is why we need a complete and credible investigation.”
Relatives of the flight crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed in Iran, mourn at a memorial at the Boryspil International airport outside Kiev, Ukraine January 8, 2020. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters
He also refused to be drawn on what action Canada might take in retaliation.
“I think it is too early to say what tools could eventually be used depending on the final assessment, the final conclusion,” he said. “Our focus right now is on giving immediate support to the families, working with them to ensure the remains of their loved ones are brought home to Canada, if that is their wishes.”
He said Canada would then “move forward on the full and complete investigation so that we can then look at next steps in the healing, accountability and justice process.”
Foreign Affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif late Wednesday and pushed for a.
Champagne said at an afternoon press conference that Zarif had demonstrated an openness to allowing Canadian officials into the country.
The plane crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq, in response to a fatal drone strike last week on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Canadian troops were also on those American bases, but the missiles caused no casualties.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) arrives for a news conference on January 9, 2020 in Ottawa, Canada. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada had intelligence from multiple sources indicating that a Ukrainian airliner which crashed outside Tehran was mistakenly shot down by Iran. Dave Chan / AFP
Champagne condemned those strikes during his call with the Iranian foreign minister, according to the official readout.
Conservative MP James Bezan said they stand with the government in calling for Canada to have more access to the crash site.
“Everybody is looking for answers and we support the government’s efforts in making sure we have Canadians as part of the investigation,” he said.
But Bezan also called for Trudeau to do more and list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), a branch of the country’s military, as a terrorist organization. Soleimani was head of a division of the corps, the Quds Force which is thought to be responsible for overseas terrorist attacks.
“We need to start talking more forcefully about the consequences of killing Canadians,” he said.
A motion recognizing the IRGC as a terrorist organization passed parliament in 2018, but has not been fully implemented.
Canada has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since 2012 and the country’s embassy in Ottawa has been closed since then, leaving Trudeau without the ability to expel diplomats in protest.
Bezan said if the Iranians aren’t more co-operative, the government should also pursue sanctions. Iran already faces many sanctions, especially from the United States, but Bezan said with other allies it would be possible to increase the pressure.
“There is more that needs to be explored and these are all things the Liberals should be considering at this time.”
Nelson Wiseman, professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said Canada’s options for punishing Iran are going to be limited.
“Canada doesn’t have any leverage. What pressure could it apply?”
He said even the Magnitsky Act, legislation which allows Canada to sanction individual members of a regime, would have limited impact here because it would be difficult to know who to sanction or what if any assets they have in Canada.
When Trudeau was asked whether he was not ruling out that this was intentional, the prime minister said, It is really too early to draw any conclusions