RCMP helping to identify Canadian victims killed in downing of Ukraine Flight 752

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The RCMP is working to help identify the remains of Canadians killed in the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 through the collection of DNA samples.

The RCMP confirmed the Ottawa bureau of international police agency Interpol has received a request for help identifying victims.

“It is currently working with Canadian police of jurisdiction to collect some DNA samples from Canadian victims’ families, within Canada, to assist with the identification of the victims,” RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin said in an email.

READ MORE: Family of Canadian crash victim claims Iran is intimidating them, won’t release remains

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Interpol Ottawa, which is run by the RCMP, is the main point of contact for countries involved in international investigations and is co-ordinating next of kin notifications with local police agencies across the country.

“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,” Fortin said.

“These profiles are then sent back to Interpol Tehran to confirm the identity of the victims.”

The RCMP said that currently, there’s been no need to send Canadian investigators to Tehran for on-site disaster victim identification assistance.

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Meanwhile, fears have arisen from some Iranian-Canadian families and others that Iran could complicate the repatriation of the remains of dual citizens killed in the crash. After days of denial, Iran says the flight was shot down accidentally by the regime’s Revolutionary Guard using surface-to-air missiles.

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READ MORE: Video appears to show 2 missiles fired at Ukrainian plane in Iran

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, told Global News on Tuesday that she has spoken with several families who aren’t able to recover the remains of loved ones.

“All of them are telling [me] that security forces went to their house and warned them, ‘If you give any interviews to journalists or media, then we won’t give the bodies of your beloved ones back,’” she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne called the allegations of harassment “disturbing” and said his office is looking into the matter.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday that 10 Canadian officials are in Iran and Turkey offering consular assistance to the victims’ families and helping identify those killed in the crash. Two Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators are also in Tehran and have visited the crash site.

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“We are wasting no time reaching out to our partners to ensure a thorough and credible investigation,” Garneau told reporters in Ottawa. “Our focus at this time remains closure, accountability, transparency, and justice, including compensation for the families.”

Garneau said consular officials have also been sent to Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto to support families of victims.

The minister said he had not yet spoken with Iran about the dual citizenship issue, but reaffirmed that the 57 Canadians who lost their lives are entitled to all the rights of Canadian citizens.

“From our point of view a Canadian, is a Canadian, is a Canadian,” he said. “We will do our utmost to make sure that those rights are accorded to them.”

Liberal MP Omar Alghabara said Wednesday that process of identifying remains “is ongoing.”

 “No Canadian has been repatriated yet,” he told reporters. “We are supporting families to achieve that goal as quickly as possible.”

Transportation Safety Board chair Kathy Fox said Monday that Iran has indicated Canadian investigators will have access to the black box flight data recorders from the plane but said it was unclear where those black boxes actually are.

“Canada’s role is evolving. It remains to be seen how far we’re going to be able to go,” Fox said at a news conference in Ottawa.

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“We’re kind of going day by day right now in terms of how long they’re going to be there, what they’re going to be able to do and when they’ll come out of there.”

The TSB has said it will deploy a second team of investigators who specialize in aircraft recorder download and analysis once “we confirm where and when this activity will take place.”