The remains of one Canadian victim of the PS752 airline disaster have been returned to Canada but details are being withheld at the family’s request, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said today.
“There has been one repatriation of remains which took place, and we respected the wish of the families to respect their privacy. The family has asked that we … and the media respect their privacy,” Champagne said following a three-day Liberal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg.
Calling the situation “dynamic” and “fluid,” Champagne said Iran has so far respected the families’ wishes regarding burial. He said that claims the families’ wishes hadn’t been respected have not been substantiated.
“We are taking these allegations seriously. We are investigating with our team on the ground and with Iranian authorities,” he said.
Wishes being respected
“But based on the information that I have from our consular officials which are working with the families … in touch with the 57 Canadians and 29 permanent residents, the latest information I have received is that the wishes of the families have been respected.”
Iran does not recognize dual citizenship. It’s not known how many of the 57 Canadians killed in the crash also held Iranian citizenship.
There also have been reports that Iran is intimidating and harassing family members of the victims.
Canada has been demanding that Iran turn over the “black box” flight recorders from the aircraft, which contain information critical to the crash investigation. Iran initially indicated it would release the black boxes to Ukraine or France — two countries with the technical expertise to analyze the data — but recent reports suggest the country is now backtracking on that pledge.
Champagne said Iran should release the flight recorders in the spirit of transparency and accepting full responsibility for the crash — but suggested global pressure is the best way to persuade Iran to release them.
“The leverage we have I would say is … the fact that the world is watching Iran. We have made demands which are very specific,” he said.
After initially denying any role in the crash, Iranian leaders conceded that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down the Boeing 737-800 using surface-to-air missiles on Jan. 8, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board. Of those passengers, 138 were destined for Canada.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada continues to “pressure” Iran to turn over the black boxes to a third country.
“It is not simply a question of having the right experts in place to analyze the black boxes. There is the question of significant technological requirements that cannot be done in Iran,” he said.
“That is why we are calling upon Iran to release the black boxes to a reliable third country that has the technological capacity and personnel to properly analyze those boxes.”