OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa will pay families $25,000 for each of the 57 Canadian citizens and 29 permanent residents who died when Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet last week.
Trudeau says the money is intended to cover the cost of funeral arrangements or travel, and it’s on top of an earlier commitment to waive fees and speed up processing times for visas for those affected by the crash.
“This is a unique and unprecedented situation, because of the international sanctions placed on Iran and the difficulties that that imposes on these families,” Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa Friday.
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“I want to be clear: we expect Iran to compensate these families,” he said, but noted that could take time.
“I have met them. They can’t wait weeks. They need support now.”
Watch: Trudeau pledges ‘justice’ for families of victims in Iran plane downing
Trudeau said 20 families have asked to bring the remains of loved ones back to Canada for burial. He said he expects the first bodies to be repatriated in the coming days.
If all families apply for the financial help, the government could pay out more than $2 million.
Trudeau said that any money from Iran would go straight to families and not be used to reimburse federal coffers for the interim financial help.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne was in Oman to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, to talk about the shooting down of the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, which killed 176 people last week.
According to a readout of the meeting provided by Champagne’s office, they talked about the need for “a transparent analysis of the black box data,” which are the flight recorders from the plane. The readout says Iran agreed.
The readout says they also discussed the need for Iran to provide full access to officials from Canada and other countries affected so they can “provide consular services, assist in ensuring victim identification meets international standards and participate in a thorough and transparent investigation.”
They also discussed how Iran has a duty to compensate the families of the victims.
A summary of the meeting on the Iran foreign ministry website said that Zarif reiterated his country’s regret over the shootdown of the airliner and promised co-operation during the investigation. The summary said Canada requested the meeting, and that Zarif and Champagne agreed to meet again.
That meeting comes after Canada and representatives from Britain, Sweden, Afghanistan and Ukraine — the four other countries with citizens aboard the downed airliner — gathered in London on Thursday.
They came up with a list of demands for Iran, which includes pressing that country to co-operate with the investigation.
The countries are all asking that Iran punish those responsible and compensate the families of victims.
It has been just over a week since one — and possibly a second — Iranian surface-to-air missile took down the passenger jet minutes after takeoff from Tehran’s international airport.
The Canadian Press has independently confirmed at least 90 victims with ties to Canada, many of them students and professors returning after spending the December break visiting relatives in Iran.
In a rare sermon during Friday prayers, Iran’s supreme leader called the downing of the civilian airliner a bitter accident that saddened Iran and made its enemies happy.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s international rivals have seized on the crash to question the country and its armed forces. He also attacked the United States for its killing of a top Iranian general, which was a factor in putting Iranian air defences on high alert.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 17, 2020.