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Families honour loved ones lost on second anniversary of downing of plane in Iran

More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash had ties to Canada
Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Families will commemorate the loss of loved ones who died after Iranian forces downed a passenger jet two years ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Ebrahim Noroozi

Canada “will not rest” until Iran is held accountable for the downing of a passenger jet by Iranian forces two years ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asserted on Saturday even as family members of those who died in the crash insist more urgent action is necessary.

“I promise you we will always continue fighting for the accountability, transparency and justice you deserve,” Trudeau said at a memorial for victims of the tragedy, which saw Iran’s military fire two missiles against a Ukrainian International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020.

Speaking by video, Trudeau attributed the disaster to “recklessness and complete disregard for human life of Iranian officials — we cannot allow that to stand.”

More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash had ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

At the partly virtual commemoration in Toronto’s north end, a group representing family members expressed anger and exasperation at Iran’s intransigence and the “glacial” pace of accountability.

“Our patience is exhausted. Today is the day when diplomacy ends and justice begins,” said Hamed Esmaeilion, who heads the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims.

The group is demanding that the case go before the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — a United Nations agency based in Montreal — and that the RCMP launch a criminal investigation.

It is also calling for arrest warrants and forma government sanctions against senior Iranian political and military leaders, and for the designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.

The regime snubbed another deadline earlier this week set by Canada and its allies to negotiate a settlement for the families.

“We keep writing polite letters, one after another,” Esmaeilion said of Ottawa.

“We will not relent with an empty, shallow apology and political gamesmanship … We shall never forget, nor shall we ever forgive.”

Titled “the open wound in the sky,” the Saturday ceremony included speeches by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory and three federal cabinet ministers.

The afternoon memorial saw mothers recite victims’ names, at times tearfully, and included video montages showcasing loved ones, children among them, directly addressing the deceased.

The two-and-a-half- hour event was to be followed by an outdoor vigil.

The federal Conservatives called on the Liberal government to impose sanctions on Iranian officials following a lack of co-operation from the regime.

“Those responsible for this attack must be held to account and the Liberal government has a responsibility to assist the victims’ families in seeking justice,” MPs Michael Chong, James Bezan and Melissa Lantsman said in a statement.

“Iran’s refusal to negotiate compensation for the victims makes it clear the Liberal government must use every tool available domestically and internationally.”

The Conservatives are also demanding the government launch discussions with the ICAO “to limit Iran’s ability to operate commercial aircraft in international airspace until they agree to abide by international norms in the investigation.”

– Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press