VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since the tragic downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, according to the victims’ families, who say they’re still trapped in the memories of Jan. 8, 2020.
All 176 passengers and crew were killed when a Iranian surface-to-air missile struck the plane just three minutes and 42 seconds after takeoff from Tehran.
Daniel Ghods, a medical student at the University of Alberta, lost his girlfriend, Saba, in the crash, along with her mother and sister.
“The sadness and the grief is so raw for family members,” he says, adding there’s been no closure or accountability.
“In so many ways it doesn’t even feel like any time has gone by past January 8th. We wake up, we have a routine, we do certain things throughout our day now but the feeling, physically and mentally is very similar to the first few days after we found out about the downing of the flight,” he says.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to make Jan. 8 a national day of remembrance. Of the 176 killed, 138 had ties to Canada; 55 were Canadian citizens, 30 were permanent residents, and 15 had ties to B.C..
As a country, we’ve experienced a number of horrible aviation tragedies. Behind them, there are spouses, parents, siblings, children, and friends who are mourning. On this day of remembrance, we offer them our condolences and honour those we’ve lost. https://t.co/WfBiaWR2dq
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 8, 2021
Many lived in North Vancouver where there is a large and tightly-knit Persian community.
In the immediate aftermath of the missile downing, members of that community gathered around Amir Bakery on Lonsdale Avenue to remember owner Fatemah Pasavand and her daughter Ayeshe Pourghaderi.
Pasavand’s friend, Shahnaz Oleh, bought her late companion’s bakery shortly after the tragedy and is assembling a sort of memorial of photos and flowers there this week.
“I hope I can keep the business here because we still have a lot of memories inside,” she says.
Oleh has kept all of the staff who worked for her friend and says she’s grateful for the support she’s received over the last year.
“Her shoes are still inside the bakery. It’s not easy but I learned from her, a lot of things. She was such a hard worker and I hope I can do that too and keep this memorial to her,” says Oleh.
‘There has been no justice’
Ghods continues to look for answers he fears he may never find.
“We still haven’t had any closure. We don’t know what happened, why it happened. There has been no justice.”
The Iranian government tried just days ago to placate families with compensation of $150,000 US but reports suggest most have turned it down, saying they won’t accept anything but the truth.
Former federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale also rejected the offer, saying there needs to be a formal negotiation process before any settlements are reached.
Goodale, who was appointed in March to head Canada’s work on this incident, released a report in December that is highly critical of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s investigations so far.
‘The perpetrator’ runs the investigation
The report points to the delay of the release of the plane’s black box and puts Canada’s doubt about the official word of Iranian investigators on the record.
“There are several reasons why the PS752 case is complex and difficult. First and foremost, the death toll was staggering,” reads Goodale’s report.
Outside of Iran, victims hailed from five other countries: Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom. The report says an intricate collaboration between more than a dozen government ministries, banks, insurance companies, and academics is ongoing and must be sustained.
Goodale explained in his briefing to Canadians that international law is complex and slow and even points to a flaw that has left Canadian officials more than frustrated.
“Because of the sovereignty and equality of states, the perpetrator ends up in charge of the investigation. If that country does not have an independent civil aviation investigative authority and a transparent judicial system, there will be inevitable doubts about impartiality, objectivity and legitimacy,” he says.
One of Canada’s main criticisms is how long it took for Iran to share the readout of PS752’s flight recorders. It was understood that it should happen without delay but in the end it took six months.
Iran also never allowed Canada to be involved in the investigation despite the number of Canadian lives lost. Canada remains an observer at a distance without an embassy in the country since 2012.
“But all that notwithstanding, the Prime Minister of Canada has been clear: The families matter most. And Canada will not rest until we get the answers and actions those families need and deserve,” says Goodale.