One hundred days after Flight 752 was shot down in Iran, countries that lost citizens in the crash are preparing to enter talks with a Tehran-appointed negotiator about compensation for the families of the victims.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says lawyers from Canada, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Afghanistan are preparing to work with Tehran’s negotiator – an Iranian public servant whose identity has not been made public – to discuss compensation for families.
Iran has admitted it shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 after mistaking the plane for a cruise missile on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
“They [the Iranians] have appointed someone to initiate settlement negotiation with the International Co-ordination and Response Group,” Mr. Champagne said in a phone interview on Thursday. “One hundred days from the tragedy … we are about to agree on the process, how we are going to speak with one voice.”
The minister said the negotiation process was discussed in a call on Wednesday with the co-ordination and response group, which includes representatives of the five countries. While talks with Iran have not started, the group has formed a legal sub-committee to plan for negotiations.
Mr. Champagne did not say when talks would begin, and warned that settlement negotiations can take years. He said all options are on the table if Iran doesn’t provide appropriate compensation to families, and didn’t rule out a lawsuit.
“If the settlement negotiations are not conducive to the outcome that we want to achieve for the families of the victims, we have other options that we can explore and pursue.”
While Mr. Champagne did not say how much money Canada will seek for victims’ families, he said the Iranian regime has said it will give the same amount to each, regardless of nationality.
However, families worry Iran won’t keep its word.
Habib Haghjoo, a Canadian-Iranian who lives in Toronto, said he is concerned his family will never be compensated for the loss of his daughter and granddaughter in the crash. His daughter, Sahar Haghjoo, was 37 years old, and her daughter, Elsa Jadidi, was 8.
Mr. Haghjoo said his family brought their bodies back to Canada and held a funeral on Jan. 26. He said grieving has been made more difficult by physical-distancing measures for the COVID-19 pandemic, as he can’t see his family or friends. He spoke to The Globe and Mail during his daily walk around his neighbourhood – the only way he feels he can cope with his sadness these days.
“I try not to think about it because I need strength to try and go after the truth, transparency and justice," he said.
Iran’s refusal to hand over the flight recorders has been at the centre of discussions on justice issues related to the crash. Canada has repeatedly called on Tehran to send the recorders to Kyiv and then to Paris, where experts can analyze them.
However, the pandemic has interrupted those efforts. Canada and the other countries have asked Iran to postpone the download of the flight-recorder data until travel restrictions are lifted so officials can be there for it.
Mr. Haghjoo said he underlined the importance of retrieving the recorders on Wednesday when he spoke with Ralph Goodale, the former Liberal cabinet minister recently named Canada’s special adviser for Flight 752.
“Whatever we get from black boxes, if we ever get them, that will be the only truth we can get," Mr. Haghjoo said.
Despite the delay with the recorders, Mr. Champagne said Canada will not let the pandemic affect its efforts to get answers.
In a statement on Thursday, Deputy Conservative Leader Leona Alleslev urged the government to ensure an independent review of the flight recorders takes place when it is safe to do so.
“The families of the victims and all Canadians need and deserve answers.”
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