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Donations from Canadians being disbursed to families of Flight 752 victims

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Families who lost loved ones when Iran shot down a passenger plane in January are now receiving a share of the donations made by Canadians following the tragedy.

Almost $2.5 million is being distributed among 48 families across Canada.

“This is definitely appreciated,” Amir Alavi, a member of the Association of Families of Flight 752 Victims, told Global News.

“The fact that we know there are so many people who care and are supportive, it’s really heartwarming.”

But the amount collected fell short of the $3.3 million that was pledged, and organizers said COVID-19 was to blame.

The Canada Strong campaign initially said it had raised $1.8 million, plus $1.5 million in federal matching funds. But a third of the pledged donations could not be collected, officials said.

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Ultimately, $1.23 million was collected and matched by the federal government, for a total of $2.46 million.

“When COVID came along, some people did not meet their pledges,” said former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, head of the committee that disbursed the funds.

“I think some people didn’t have the means, all of a sudden.”

Read more: Pain, heartache continue as families of those killed on downed Ukrainian plane wait for answers

Ukraine International Airlines Fight 752 had just taken off from Tehran airport on Jan. 8 when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards downed it with a surface-to-air missile.

The Iranian regime initially denied responsibility, then called it a mistake. Tensions were high in the region at the time after the killing of the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.

The Quds Force is the branch of the Revolutionary Guards that sponsors terrorist groups. A U.S. drone strike destroyed Soleimani’s vehicle after an Iranian-backed militia killed an American translator in Iraq.

Iran has said it shot down Flight 752, believing it was a U.S. warplane.

Of the 176 aboard the passenger plane, 55 were Canadian citizens and 30 were permanent residents, according to the federal government.

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The fundraising campaign was launched by restaurant chain owner Mohamad Faki, and promoted by Toronto Mayor John Tory. It was conducted in conjunction with the Toronto Foundation, a registered charity.

Public Safety Canada said the government had contributed $1,229,147.96 in matching funds.

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Iran authorities in riot gear march towards protesters demonstrating over plane crash – Jan 11, 2020

A committee decided who was eligible to receive a portion of the money, and the amounts. The City of Toronto then disbursed the funds.

“The disbursement committee has now made its decisions and the City of Toronto is in the process of making the payments to the recipients,” the mayor’s office said.

“Due to the pandemic, the funds raised are lower than what was initially announced.”

The four dozen families receiving funds represent 63 of those who died, Hall said.

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She declined to say how much was provided to each family, but said the amounts depended on whether they were children, spouses, parents, or other family members.

Families have indicated they would use the money to start scholarships in the name of their loved ones, while others need the assistance just to get by, she said.

“Some people have had real challenges,” Hall said. “And this support from Canadians makes them feel like their family member was worth something, was valued.”

The families were moved to know so many Canadians had contributed, she said. “That just means so much,” said Hall, who was also involved in assisting victims of the Toronto van attack.

“We received a lot of positive response from people who said it makes a difference for them that they’re receiving something from people they don’t even know, that this is, in a sense, a community response to their grief.”

Read more: Threatened by Iranian regime, family of Flight 752 victim flees to Edmonton

Alavi said that following the downing of the plane, many families travelled to Iran, where they were treated poorly by the authorities.

But he said when they returned to Canada, they were moved by the help they received.

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“The Canadian people were so supportive,” he said. “These things really go a long way toward helping everyone feel welcomed, everyone feel valued.”

He said many families had lost their breadwinner and needed the help.

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Toronto businessman launches ‘Canada Strong’ fundraiser for families of plane crash victims – Jan 13, 2020

With the first anniversary of the tragedy approaching, commemorative events were being planned to remember the victims, he said.

“Our mission is to not let Iran just escape responsibility and accountability,” Alavi said.

Stewart.Bell@globalews.ca

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