Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the parties responsible for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the loss of nearly 300 lives must be brought to justice – and that will require a full and independent investigation by the international community.
Mr. Baird is in London this week to attend a conference about honour-based violence and forced marriage. He spoke to The Globe and Mail’s Gloria Galloway on Sunday about the airline tragedy – and what should happen next.
You have called for a credible and unimpeded international investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. What did you mean by that?
What’s unacceptable is that even the most basic thing as the repatriation of the remains of departed souls is being impeded by the Russian-backed separatists, let alone the scene being tampered with, let alone even a question of whether the black boxes will be turned over. The European observers have not been able to have unimpeded access. This is unacceptable. We want, and I think the international community is demanding, a full and independent investigation into what happened. And that starts with access to the site. There is mounting evidence of exactly what happened and we need to bring even further clarity to that so that we can assign blame and hold those accountable for this tragedy accountable.
Is Canada playing a role in that, in helping to discern what happened or discussing with the international community about what should happen next?
I have been talking to a number of my counterparts and I have spoken to our embassies around the world, and staff have been talking to just about everyone. In the last 24 hours I have spoken to my Australian counterpart, my Dutch counterpart and my Malaysian counterpart. The Australians lost 28. The Dutch lost approximately 165 on the Malaysia Airlines flight. We are all horrified by what’s happened. We want justice and there is a considerable amount of evidence building. But we want a full and independent investigation of this and obviously that cannot be undertaken by the Russian separatists in the Eastern Ukraine.
Have you given any thought to what justice would mean in this case?
It can start with Malaysia. It can start with ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization), the UN agency headquartered in Montreal. And it can also start in the Ukraine. There is technical, intelligence, social media and other evidence that is pointing in the same direction. We want even further clarity on that. Obviously the intent can be deliberate. But it also could be through negligence and through recklessness.
You say you have been talking to your counterparts around the world about this tragedy. What has been their reaction?
You look at the Netherlands, a key western ally of Canada with a demonstrably smaller population, having lost approximately 165 people. I can only imagine what would have happened had [the] flight departed from Toronto and we had lost 165 Canadians. We lost one Canadian, which was horrifying for his friends and family and for the country, let alone 165 from one country. Twenty-eight from Australia … Obviously the No. 1 priority, urgently, is the dignified repatriation of the remains. The fact that the Russian Federation appears to be unwilling to call for, and assist that, is troubling. The fact that the crime scene – and this is a crime scene – is being disturbed is another urgent concern. We are joining Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia in calling for a full and independent investigation into what happened immediately. And there is no acceptable argument against that. The security and safety of civil aviation is paramount and, frankly, there must be justice brought to bear on those who are responsible for this and those who have aided and abetted it.This interview has been edited and condensed.