When the news was breaking last week that a Ukrainian airliner had crashed near Tehran it was heartbreaking – but few could have predicted just how this tragedy across the world would touch so close to home. Within hours, it became apparent that the number of Canadians on board flight PS752 would be devastatingly high.
By early this week it was confirmed that 57 of the 176 people who died on the flight were Canadians with many more on board making their way to Canada. Many of those who died had personal and family ties to Iran and were visiting for the holidays. In all, nine of the deceased had ties to Winnipeg.
As we began to learn who the victims of the tragedy were it became apparent just how deep the loss was. Many universities lost students and faculty members and so many of the victims had chosen to come to Canada to start a new life with new opportunities. As Manitoba’s Minister of Education I was particularly saddened to hear of the school aged children who died on the flight, including from here in Manitoba. Truly, all Manitobans extend their deepest sympathy to those who have lost friends and family members.
Canadians across the country were quick to share in the grief of those impacted by this tragedy. Flags have been lowered to half-staff and the outpouring of sympathy to the Iranian-Canadian community and beyond has been expressed from every part of our country.
That grief was only magnified days after flight PS752 crashed when it was confirmed that it was an Iranian missile that caused the downing of the Ukrainian aircraft shortly after takeoff in Tehran. To the grief of many was quickly added outrage. In that outrage has also come the call for answers about how this terrible event happened. While Iranian officials initially denied that it was a missile that had brought down the airliner, it is critical that there now be a full and transparent investigation that includes Canadian investigators.
Answers to how this tragedy occurred cannot erase the pain of those who have lost people close to them nor can it bring back the promise and potential that existed in the lives that were lost. But it is part of the justice that can now be provided and it is critical to ensuring that those who are seeking answers can be given them.
Canada is known worldwide as a compassionate country that has for generations offered peace and opportunity for those that have sought it. Residents of southeast Manitoba do not have to look far for the signs that we have benefited from those who settled this area seeking that peace and opportunity. Together we mourn the senseless loss of life of all those on PS752 but especially those who saw Manitoba as a home of hope.