Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Iran must take full responsibility for mistakenly shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 civilians on board, including 57 Canadians.
At an afternoon news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said that accountability must include a creditable investigation and compensation for the families of the dead.
“This is a tragedy that should not have happened,” the prime minister said.
“Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific. Iran must take full responsibility,” he said.
“I am, of course, outraged and furious that families across this country are grieving the loss of their loved ones; that the Iranian-Canadian community is suffering so greatly; that all Canadians are shocked and appalled at this senseless loss of life.”
Trudeau’s news conference came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged Saturday that an Iranian missile took down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
Rouhani, who spoke with Trudeau over the phone Saturday, posted on Twitter that an Iranian military investigation concluded “missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash.”
The admission came a day after Iran denied claims being made by Canada, Britain and the United States that the plane was shot down by Iran, possibly accidentally.
In addition to the 57 Canadian citizens on the plane, dozens more were bound for Canada, many of them students and professors returning after spending the December break visiting relatives in Iran.
Rouhani said investigations will continue to “identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.”
“My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families,” he said. “I offer my sincerest condolences.”
Nadia Eghbali, whose aunt, uncle and eight-year-old cousin died in the crash, said it was hard to process all of her emotions after hearing the Iranian government admit that they accidentally shot the plane down.
“We’re in complete shock, we’re full of so much emotion. There’s anger, there’s so many things, we just don’t know why this happened,” said Eghbali. “At a time like this, they needed to stop all flights. It should have been stopped to prevent anything like this.”
Nina Saeidpour, whose friend Kasra Saati died in the crash, said Iran’s admission stirred up “mixed emotions.” Saeidpour, from Calgary, said Saati had travelled to Iran over the holidays for a reunion with his wife and two children.
“In some ways we are happy that our government just came forward and said that they did it instead of hiding everything. On the other hand everybody is again in shock about why such a thing should happen,” Saeidpour said.
Officials from Global Affairs Canada and investigators from the Transportation Safety Board were waiting to get access to Iran so they can both be part of the investigation and provide consular services to families of Canadian victims. Trudeau said three visas had been issued so far and the first members of the team were expected to be on the ground in Iran within the day.
The plane’s downing came hours after Iran launched missile attacks at two military bases hosting U.S. troops in Iraq. Those attacks were retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in an American airstrike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
A military statement delivered on Iranian state television said the civilian airliner was mistaken for a “hostile target” when it turned toward a sensitive military site belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, an elite unit of the country’s military.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still pointed some blame towards the Americans, saying on Twitter, “human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism led to disaster.”
Trudeau said accidents like the downing of the plane are what happen when tension is high and he said things need to calm down in the region.
“The reality is there have been significant tensions in that region for a long time and what we are calling for now is a de-escalation to ensure that there are no more tragic accidents,” he said.
Ukraine’s president said Iran must issue an official apology and also called for compensation for the disaster. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine expects a “full and open investigation, bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
The dead also included citizens of Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan and Germany. Champagne said Canada is leading the group of nations to advocate with “one single voice.”
— with files from Salmaan Farooqui in Toronto, Chris Reynolds in Montreal and The Associated Press
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press