Editor’s note: Global News previously reported, based on information from government officials, that 63 Canadians were killed in the Jan. 8 Ukraine International Airlines crash in Iran. On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that the number of crash victims who are Canadian citizens is now believed to be 57 due to additional information received. This story has been revised to reflect the latest figure provided by the Canadian government.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada has been issued several visas by Iran as it continues to push for access to the investigation into the plane crash that killed 176 passengers, including 57 Canadians, in Tehran this week.
In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorensen, Champagne stressed the need for a thorough and credible investigation into the crash and said Canada has a quick response force ready to deploy into Iran to both provide technical assistance and “hold people to account.”
“I’ve been told as I was walking to this interview that a few visas have been issued,” said Champagne.
“So this is something that is very fluid. We’re monitoring this situation hour by hour with officials and as soon as we have people on the ground, we’ll be able to provide further details about where we are and certainly participate actively in the investigation as everyone would expect.”
Champagne issued a tweet following publication of his interview specifying that the number of issued visas is two.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that intelligence received from allied and Canadian sources suggests the Ukrainian aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired by Iran just hours after it launched close to two dozen ballistic missiles at military bases housing U.S. and coalition soldiers in Iraq.
That missile attack came in retaliation for the decision last week by U.S. President Donald Trump to order the targeted killing by drone strike of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s influence strategy across the Middle East and the second-in-command of the regime.
Iran has refused to hand over the black boxes recovered from the crash site to Boeing, the manufacturer of the downed aircraft, or to American officials.
But it has said it needs help reading the data contained in them and might accept assistance from countries like Canada or France.
Canadian officials have been invited to participate in the investigation being led by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization but concerns over the Iranian regime’s ability to control and manipulate information has dogged initial reports of that work.
Iran has so far denied that the crash was caused by a missile strike and has reportedly begun clearing out the crash site, raising fears forensic evidence that might show signs of such an explosion could be lost to investigators.
Iran also denies that it is clearing out the site.
Champagne has said Canada’s first priority right now is to get people on the ground in Iran so it can participate in that probe but stopped short of promising that Canadians will get an explanation for the cause of the deadly crash.
“Can you say that Canadians will get answers?” Sorensen asked.
“Well, we’ll ask all the questions and we’ll push for answers,” Champagne responded.
He said much of what happens next comes down to access that Canadians and the Ukrainians, who are also participating in the probe, will be able to get.
“I think the world is watching Iran, the world is watching how this is going to be unfolding,” he said. “There are a lot of moving parts but certainly first and foremost, it’s about the people. It’s about the victims and the families, and that’s where we’re putting all the attention right now.”