Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will make sure the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight Wednesday morning that killed everyone aboard — including 63 Canadians — is “thoroughly investigated.”
Trudeau issued a statement this morning offering his condolences to the families of the 176 people on Flight PS752 from Tehran to Kyiv — 167 passengers and nine crew, including Canadian families, academics and students.
“On behalf of the government of Canada, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones in this tragedy. Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated and that Canadians’ questions are answered,” he said.
“Today, I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens.”
To honour the victims, the Canadian flag atop the Peace Tower in Ottawa is being flown at half-mast.
Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference and take questions this afternoon on the crash — one of the deadliest disasters involving Canadian citizens in decades.
The cause of the crash, which happened just after the Boeing 737-800 aircraft took off from the Tehran airport, is still unknown.
The crash happened just hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. At first, both Ukrainian and Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, but the Ukrainian Embassy in Iran later said any previous comments about the cause of the crash were not official.
Ukraine International Airlines, which has suspended flights to Tehran indefinitely, issued a statement saying the aircraft was built in 2016 and underwent its last scheduled maintenance Monday.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau tweeted this morning that Canada has been in touch with its international counterparts and is offering technical assistance for the upcoming investigation.
Situation evolving: foreign minister
His cabinet colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, called the situation “extremely fluid” and said the number of Canadians confirmed dead could change as more information becomes available, including news on dual citizens.
“I have been in touch with my Ukrainian counterpart and will continue to speak to all relevant authorities,” he said in a media statement.
“We will continue to keep Canadians informed as the situation evolves.”
At least 27 people from Edmonton are believed to be among the dead. There are also reports of victims who lived in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.
“We lost a significant portion of our community, and everybody in Edmonton that’s of Iranian descent will know somebody that was on that flight,” said Payman Parseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in the Alberta provincial capital.
Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko said 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians were also aboard the plane, along with Swedish, Afghan, British and German nationals.
Aircraft accident consultant Larry Vance said Canada isn’t guaranteed involvement in the investigation because the crash didn’t involve a Canadian aircraft or operator.
Vance, who worked as a Transportation Safety Board investigator for 23 years, said Canada could offer to help, given the large number of casualties. But the lack of a diplomatic relationship between Canada and Iran could interfere with that, he added.
“I know there will be complications, that’s obvious,” said Vance.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Andriy Shevchenko, said his country is working with Iranian authorities on the ground to identify the dead and help their families.
“My heart is broken,” he said. “We will have to go through this terrible pain together with our Canadian brothers and sisters.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the victims’ families “deserve clear answers.”
“But whatever the cause, this is devastating,” he said. “Love to their families, friends and communities, and to everyone touched by this tragedy.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called it the crash a “horrific tragedy,” while Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde tweeted a reminder that “life is precious.”
“Today is a sad day for our country,” said Scheer.
Travel advisory for Canadians
Global Affairs Canada says friends and relatives of Canadian citizens believed to be on board can contact Global Affairs’ emergency watch and response centre. Canadian citizens in Iran requiring consular assistance should contact the Canadian Embassy in Ankara or call Global Affairs Canada’s emergency watch and response centre.
Canada is urging Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Iran “due to the volatile security situation [and] the regional threat of terrorism.”
“Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, are at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained,” the warning adds.
“Iran does not recognize dual nationality and Canada will not be granted consular access to dual Canadian-Iranian citizens. Canadian-Iranian dual citizens should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Iran.”
The travel advisory does not mention the plane crash.
Planes re-routed over region
Boeing issued a statement on Twitter expressing condolences to the crew, passengers and families affected by the crash.
After Tuesday’s missile attack, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice outlining flight restrictions prohibiting U.S. civil aviation operators from flying in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Transport Canada followed up, tweeting that Air Canada — the only Canadian air carrier that operates in the region covered by the U.S. notice — has changed its routes in the region.
A spokesperson for the airline said it’s rerouting flights to Dubai and will make further adjustments as needed.
“As a result of the current uncertain situation in the Middle East, like many international carriers Air Canada has taken precautionary measures,” reads Air Canada’s statement.
“Air Canada has not used Iranian airspace since mid-last year. These latest adjustments relate to Iraq airspace, which we will now also avoid.”