OTTAWA—More than two months after a Ukrainian airliner was shot down over Tehran, killing 55 Canadians, the federal government is taking its campaign for a better investigation to the United Nations’ civil aviation agency, where Transport Minister Marc Garneau is set to admonish Iran for its ongoing failure to grant access to the downed plane’s black boxes.
Garneau is slated to speak to the 36-member council of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal on Wednesday, where he will slam Iran for breaking the agency’s rules that require the handover of flight recorders to competent investigators “without delay.”
The federal transport minister says that lessons cannot be learned from the tragedy without a proper investigation, and is warning Iran that Canada will continue to crank up international pressure for a thorough probe into what happened. That could include a formal complaint through the aviation agency if Iran doesn’t make the black boxes available, Garneau told the Star in an interview Tuesday.
“I’m sure they care about their standing in the international community,” Garneau said, describing his speech at the UN aviation agency as the “next step” in Canada’s push for Iran to hand the black boxes to France or another country with the technology to analyze their data about the flight’s last moments.
“We owe it to the families of the victims to do this, and it’s also the proper thing that you do when you have this kind of accident,” he said. “We hope that this will get things moving quickly.”
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed over the Tehran on Jan. 8, just hours after Iran launched missiles at military bases in Iraq where American soldiers and their allies were stationed. The attack was in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general.
After days of denial, Iran admitted it “unintentionally” shot down the civilian airliner just minutes after it took off from Tehran’s international airport, bound for Ukraine. All 176 people on board were killed, including 55 Canadians.
In the weeks since, Canada has participated in an international effort to ensure international investigations had access to the crash site and could take part in Iran’s probe of the incident. Meeting in Germany last month, Canada joined other nations in pressing Iran to pay victims’ families for their losses.
In the meantime, the federal government gave families $25,000 each as immediate financial help while it pushes Iran to co-operate with international investigators. That effort has continued in the weeks since, as Canada ramped up complaints about Iran’s “unprecedented” refusal to hand over black boxes to France, whose investigators have discussed analyzing the data they contain with Iranian officials. Canada and its partners pushing Iran to co-operate have said the country does not have the technology required to download the data.
The Convention on International Civil Aviation says the state conducting a crash investigation must arrange for the analysis of flight recorders “without delay.”
On Parliament Hill Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne accused Iran of “undermining international law” by delaying the handover of black boxes to competent international investigators. Champagne said he spoke with Ukraine’s president last week about how to “put additional pressure on Iran to deliver” the black boxes.
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“We’ll certainly continue to put the pressure because this is undermining international law and that should not be allowed to stand,” he said.
On Thursday, Garneau will also propose to the International Civil Aviation Organization that it develop a “safer skies strategy” to ensure commercial airlines have relevant information about conflict zones so they can choose to avoid them in the future. According to prepared remarks provided to the Star, Garneau will call on the organization to develop a plan to present at its next session in late spring.
“My country has been deeply affected by this tragedy,” the prepared remarks say. “We do not want to see it happen again — ever, to anyone, from any state. We do not want anyone to have to experience the sense of loss and shock that this terrible incident has created.”
In the meantime, Garneau said Tuesday that Canada is hopeful its efforts will finally push Iran to grant access to the black boxes, so that victims’ families can be confident there is a thorough investigation into the crash.
“Hopefully in the days to come there will be some movement,” Garneau said. “We’ll have to see.”