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Canada Plans January 8 As National Day For Air Disaster Victims As Lawsuit Against Iran Moves Ahead

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday [December 23] announced plans for a national day for remembrance of air-disaster victims to coincide with the date of the downing of Ukraine’s flight PS752 by surface-to-air missiles fired by Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) on January 8 2020.

“To the families and friends who will be spending the holidays without a loved one: you will be in our thoughts,” Trudeau said Wednesday.

In a separate development, Ontario Superior Court of Justice accepted the basis of a class action lawsuit against the Islamic Republic brought by families of victims, on the basis of Canada’s anti-terrorism laws. This was the first action the court undertook in the class action lawsuit and it accepted the case based on the plaintiff’s complaint that Iran committed a terrorist act.

Iran and Canada have not had any formal diplomatic relations since Ottawa shut down its embassy in Tehran in 2012 after attacks on the British embassy in Iran. Canada cited Iran's material support to the Syrian regime during the Syrian Civil War, breaching its nuclear commitments and threats to Israel as well as fears for the safety of Canadian diplomats as reasons for severing diplomatic relations with Iran. 

A report from Ralph Goodale, special advisor to the prime minister, published December 15, stressed the centrality of respecting families’ grief in air disasters. Of 176 onboard PS752, 138 had ties to Canada. Goodale cited the loss of 280 Canadian lives in Air India flight 182, destroyed in 1985 by a bomb planted by Sikh militants, and the death of 18 Canadians in Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which crashed in 2019 after technical failure.

Iran admitted shooting down PS752 after three days of denying knowledge of the cause. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged an “unforgivable mistake.” The missiles hit the plane shortly after take-off from Tehran, hours after Iran’s missile attacks on US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US killing Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC Qods Force, in Baghdad on January 3.

Families of victims in Canada have filed lawsuits against the Iranian authorities including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s armed forces. A statement by the Association of Families of Flight PD752 Victims on Tuesday said Iranian authorities were trying to take over ceremonies of the anniversary and that “murderers” should not be in charge of mourning.  Iran accuses Canada of exploiting the families’ grief  for domestic political purposes.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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