An Iranian-Canadian MP says there are concerns Iran may complicate the repatriation of the remains of dual citizens killed in the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, as Canada’s law-enforcement agencies work to collect and process DNA samples to help Tehran identify Canadian victims.
Majid Jowhari, the Liberal member of Parliament for the Ontario riding of Richmond Hill, said some of his constituents lost family or friends on Flight 752, which crashed last week in the outskirts of Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including 57 Canadians. He said officials are working to ensure the remains of Canadians are treated properly amid concerns Iran’s policy to not recognize the second citizenship of dual nationals will affect families’ ability to repatriate the remains of their loved ones.
“Our consular services on the ground are working very hard to make sure that every Canadian citizen’s body will be returned to Canada,” Mr. Jowhari said in an interview on Tuesday.
Oleksii Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said his country’s intelligence services were aware of 17 cases in which Canadian families were negotiating with the Iranian government over “how and where they will bury the bodies” of their relatives.
The RCMP said the Ottawa bureau of international police agency Interpol received a request for assistance with victim identification. Interpol Ottawa is operated by the RCMP and is the first point of contact in Canada for countries involved in international investigations.
The RCMP said they are working with Canadian police services to collect DNA samples from Canadian victims’ families, based on the last known location of the deceased and next of kin. “The RCMP’s national DNA data bank is assisting by creating DNA profiles from the samples collected by family members in order to help in the identification of Canadian victims,” Corporal Caroline Duval said in an e-mail. “These profiles are then sent back to Interpol Tehran to confirm the identity of the victims.”
Interpol Ottawa also co-ordinated next-of-kin notifications with local police agencies. The Toronto Police Service confirmed it is among the agencies that have been assisting with notifications as victims are identified.
A report by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency published Tuesday morning said a team of experts, including genetics specialists, had collected 800 DNA samples from remains found at the crash site. The agency published a list of 61 people whose remains have apparently been identified so far. The list includes Iranian-Canadian citizens and others who were bound for Canada.
Firouzeh Madani and Naser Pourshabanoshibi, both doctors in Iran before moving to Canada with their daughter in 2013, were not on the list published by Tasnim. Dr. Madani’s sister, Farnaz Madani, said Canadian government officials on Friday told her she will need to provide a DNA sample in order to assist with the confirmation of her sibling’s remains. She said she was told the RCMP and Interpol would be involved in the process.
The family has not yet finalized where the couple’s remains will be buried, but Ms. Madani said she hopes her sister and brother-in-law’s Iranian and Canadian citizenships will not complicate any potential repatriation process. “This is a bit of a concern,” Ms. Madani said.
Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, told the CBC’s Power and Politics on Tuesday that he was not aware of any Canadian families that had secured the repatriation of their loved ones.
Ten Canadian diplomats are in Iran offering consular assistance to the victims’ families and helping identify the dead. Two Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators also landed in Tehran on Monday to assist with the investigation.