A week after 176 people were killed when Iran shot down a commercial airliner near Tehran, hundreds of people gathered in North Vancouver’s Civic Plaza to honour the victims.
Fifty-seven Canadians were aboard Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752, including at least 15 people who called B.C. home.
The tragedy hit North Vancouver particularly hard: the community is home to nearly a quarter of the Lower Mainland’s estimated 44,000 residents of Iranian descent.
Mourners, many carrying tiny Canadian and Iranian flags, lit candles and piled flowers on a makeshift shrine to the fallen.
“There are no words to describe this,” said Milad Parpouchi, who came to mourn with the community.
“Justice can never be attained in this kind of tragic event, never. But I hope that we get as close to it as possible.”
Through tears, Parisa Asghari told Global News her neighbour’s daughter was aboard the plane.
“She was a 23-year-old student with lots of hope to come to Canada to pursue her dreams. But unfortunately with this event she lost all her dreams and all her hopes, and she will never come back,” said Asghari.
“First of all we need to know what exactly happened. But no matter what comes out of this investigation, they’re not coming back.”
Abegael Fischer-Lang, who attended the rally toting Canadian flags, said in the 30 years she’d lived in North Vancouver she’d become close friends with many in the Iranian community.
“I’ve met musicians and painters and storytellers,” she said. “The whole Iranian culture is so full of beauty and light and it’s brought so much to our community, so I’m here grieving because I feel these are my people.
“I’m just here to grieve with my friends.”
On Tuesday, Iran announced that it had made an unspecified number of arrests in the downing of the flight, which it has described as an accident.
The country had initially denied shooting the aircraft down, but admitted Saturday that it was responsible.
Investigators with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) have travelled to Iran, but said Tuesday they could not confirm the location of black boxes from the plane.
The plane, en route from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians and 57 Canadians, many of whom were Iranians with dual citizenship.
It remains unclear when the remains of the Canadian victims will be repatriated.