TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday his government will give Canadian $25,000 (US$19,122) to the families of each of the 57 citizens and 29 permanent residents of Canada who died in the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran last week.
Trudeau said he still expects Iran to compensate the families but added that they need help now for funerals, travel to Iran and bills. He said any money Iran provides at a later date will go straight to the families and will not be reimbursed to the Canadian government.
“I want to be clear, we expect Iran to compensate these families,” Trudeau said. “But I have met them. They can’t wait weeks. They need support now.”
Asked if the U.S. bears any responsibility after President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Trudeau said Iran bears full responsibility for having shot down a civilian airline with 176 people aboard.
The prime minister also said the “black boxes” have been significantly damaged and Iran does not have the expertise or equipment needed to look at them. He said France has a lab that can do it. He said there is a need to do it as quickly as possible.
The spokesman for the French accident investigating bureau, or BEA, said it has no information about eventually obtaining the demolished airplane’s black boxes, the voice and data recorders, to decipher them. Sebastien Barthe added that it is up to Iran, which is in charge of the investigation, to decide the matter.
Trudeau said no remains of Canadian victims have returned to Canada yet but he expects that to start happening in the coming days.
Trudeau held the news conference in Ottawa after Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Muscat, Oman on Friday.
A statement from Champagne’s office said the two discussed the need to provide consular services to assist in ensuring victim identification and the importance of a transparent investigation.
“The Ministers also discussed the need for a transparent analysis of the black box data, to which Iran agreed. In addition, they discussed the duty Iran has towards the families of the victims – including compensation,” the statement reads.
“Minister Zarif expressed his support for Iran continuing to work with Canada and all grieving nations in these respects.”
Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, but Trudeau and Canada’s foreign minister have been in touch with their Iranian counterparts since the plane was shot down.
Iran downed the flight as it braced for possible American retaliation after firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces. The missile attack, which caused no U.S. casualties, was a response to the killing of Iran’s top general.
Trudeau has called the downing a Canadian tragedy because 138 of the passengers were headed for Canada. He confirmed for the first time that those included 29 permanent residents of Canada.
They included students, newlyweds, doctors and parents. The youngest was a 1-year-old girl.
Top diplomats from the countries who had victims met in London on Thursday to demand Tehran accept “full responsibility” and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
AP writer Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.