EDITOR’S NOTE: On Jan. 10, the Canadian government updated the number of Canadians killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran from 63 to 57.
On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the nation, saying that intelligence from multiple sources indicates an Iranian surface-to-air missile likely downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed outside Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, including 138 people who were headed to Canada.
Trudeau would not speculate on what Canada’s reaction to Iran would be, saying that a response would need to start with a “clear understanding” of what had occurred.
There was an almost immediate outburst of anguish and accusations on social media, with some fingers pointed squarely at U.S. President Donald Trump and the American military.
A large portion of online blame fell to Trump, with people positing that were it not for the Jan. 3 U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani — the architect of the country’s regional security strategy — UIA Flight 752 would not have been struck by the missile and the lives of the 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians and 11 Ukrainians would have been spared.
Pentagon sources said that Iran’s missile defence system was likely active at the time due to the recent retaliatory missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq. The plane crash took place mere hours after Iran fired missiles at a joint American-Iraqi army base.
Miatta Fahnbulleh, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation, said that the British government made a “mistake” in failing to condemn Trump’s actions in Iran.
“This is yet another example of Trump being cavalier, reckless, thoughtless and impulsive and it’s put all of us in danger,” she said in an interview with the BBC.
Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate running for U.S. president, echoed that sentiment.
“Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat,” he tweeted.
Others argued that Trump was not to blame, instead saying the Iranian regime and its actions in the past justified military retribution. Lines were clearly drawn on social media, with the left leaning towards Trump-blaming and the right defending the president.
Republican congressman Mark Meadows said the blaming of Trump is “absolutely reprehensible.”
IN PICTURES: Tehran plane crash claims 63 Canadian lives
U.S. senator Marco Rubio predicted the online fallout before it started to pick up steam.
Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East security director at the Center for a New American Security, said there’s no reason to play the blame game, instead stating that in war, there are always casualties and collateral damage.
Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said news that the plane was likely shot down was “very scary.”
“When I put myself in the shoes of the family, it’s a huge difference. It changes the whole scenario of who is responsible for this.”
By Thursday evening, scores of people had gathered outside Trump Tower in Manhattan for an anti-war rally.
Chants of “No war in Iran!” could be heard.
The Boeing 737-800 was six minutes into its trip from Tehran to Kyiv when it caught fire and crashed in a field Wednesday.
— With files from The Canadian Press, Kerri Breen and Rachael D’Amore