The Canadian government will give $25,000 to families of the Iranian plane crash victims to assist them with funeral arrangments and travel, among other “immediate needs.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday that the money will go to the 57 Canadian citizens and 29 permanent residents who died when Iran shot down the Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet last week.
“This is a unique and unprecedented situation because of the international sanctions placed on Iran and the difficulties that imposes on these families,” he said. “These families have lost a loved one in extraordinary circumstances, and the grieving is even more difficult as a result.”
Trudeau reiterated that he still expects Iran to compensate the victims.
“I want to be clear. We expect Iran to compensate these families. I have met them. They can’t wait weeks. They need support now,” he said at a news conference in Ottawa.
“We haven’t looked at what the full compensation would end up looking like from Iran, but I can assure you any money from Iran for the victims would go straight to them. It would not go to the Canadian government.”
All 176 people on board the passenger jet died when the Iranian military shot it down with a surface-to-air missile mere minutes after takeoff in Tehran. Iran says it was an unintentional incident.
Canada is among the affected countries that have demanded compensation from Iran for the families of those killed in the crash.
Britain, Sweden, Afghanistan and Ukraine are also calling on Iran to respect the wishes of families on repatriating remains, full access for consular officials and investigators and an independent and credible investigation.
Trudeau also announced that the government will set up a national 1-800 line that will connect those Canadians affected with a lawyer to provide pro bono legal information and advice.
“Our government is firmly committed to holding Iran accountable for those who have lost a loved one, and that includes compensation,” he said. “This is immediate assistance for a range of needs they might have. We will be getting this money to them as quickly as we possibly can.”
He added that he expects the first remains of Canadians killed in the crash to be repatriated “in the coming days.”
The funding announcement follows earlier commitments from the Canadian government to waive fees and speed up processing times for visas for those impacted by the crash.
Earlier Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne sat down for a rare meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to discuss the tragedy.
Trudeau said he did not have many details about the meeting, as it had ended shortly before he began his address to the media but added that he knows Champagne repeated calls for de-escalation.
However, according to a readout of the meeting provided by the minister’s office, the pair discussed Iran compensating the families of the victims, as well as the need for a “transparent analysis” of the data contained in the plane’s black-box, which Iran’s Zarif agreed with.
Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa that he wants the black-box to be sent to France — one of the few countries with the ability to extract and read the data from the badly-damaged box.
“Iran does not have the level of technical experience and mostly the equipment necessary to be able to analyze these damaged black boxes quickly,” Trudeau said.
“There is a beginning of a consensus that (France) would be the right place to send those black boxes to get proper information from them in a rapid way and that is what we are encouraging the Iranian authorities to agree to.”
— With files from the Canadian Press