The flight recorders of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, shot down by an Iranian missile last week, have not left that country.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday that 10 members of Canada’s rapid deployment team are now on the ground in Iran and that officials from the Transportation Safety Board have begun their investigation into the downing of the aircraft.
No information on what they find will be made available until their work is complete, he added.
“The Transportation Safety Board is also ready to deploy its second team of investigators to participate in the download of the flight recorder data and analysis … once we know where that will take place,” Garneau said.
“The black boxes are with Iran, which is leading the investigation and what we have been told by the Iranians is we will be allowed to participate not only in the decoding of the boxes but also the analysis.”
Iran admitted last week to shooting down Flight 752 just hours after it had launched a barrage of missiles at coalition military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the targeted killing on Jan. 3 of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the United States.
The Iranian regime had initially denied shooting down the plane and killing all 176 passengers on board, including 57 Canadians and more than 80 Iranians.
It admitted to firing the missile after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian and allied officials had credible intelligence of a strike.
Since then, figuring out how and why the missile was fired has been a major question for Trudeau and other leaders.
There is also unverified video online of what appears to show a second missile being fired at the passenger plane before it crashed.
Canadian officials have stressed the need to examine the black boxes in order to figure out exactly what happened.
There has been uncertainty recently, though, on the location of those black boxes, one of which is a cockpit voice recorder and the other an aircraft data recorder.
A spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board told Global News on Tuesday that they “cannot confirm their location right now.”
That came after a report from NBC News on Tuesday morning quoting Gholamhossein Esmaili, a spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary, saying the black boxes had been taken to France for decoding and assessment.
However, that same report cited an official from France’s civil aviation authority saying they did not have the black boxes and were not expecting them to be sent from Iran.
Global News reached out to the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile but has not received a response.
Another official from the Transportation Safety Board said on Monday that the black boxes appeared to be damaged but still in Iran.
But she noted the agency was basing that assessment off media reports and images.
Garneau noted, though, that while Canada is ready to deploy and assist with decoding the black boxes, it has not yet been formally asked to do so.
He added that the unverified reports of two missiles being fired at the plane are among the answers that could be clarified by that assessment of the data.
“We hope that there will be enough info available to us to really provide a complete picture of what happened,” he said.
“We don’t know what their procedures are when they want to bring something down, whether they shoot two missiles or not.”
He also reiterated Trudeau’s insistence earlier in the week that any path towards justice for the victims must include compensation paid by those responsible.
Iran, however, does not recognize dual citizenship and there have been reports that families of the individuals killed have been harassed by Iranian officials.
Canada could look at providing a military aircraft to bring back the remains of the victims, Garneau said.
Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, added the government is considering providing the families of the victims with some kind of interim compensation, but would not say what that could include.
“We are actively exploring these options and we hope our decision will be made in short order.”