OTTAWA — Canada and Ukraine flatly rejected a report suggesting the Iranian regime was seeking immunity from future legal action after shooting down a passenger jet in January.
The Iranian military shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8 shortly after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
Iran has yet to deliver on its promise to surrender the flight recorders from the downed airliner to the Ukrainian government, a pledge that came during the March 11 meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.
Earlier this week, a report from Radio Farda said Iran wants Ukraine to sign a memorandum of understanding in which the families of the crash victims would sign away their future rights for legal compensation.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired two missiles at the commercial airliner, but Radio Farda says Iran wants Ukraine to accept that “human error” was the cause of the plane’s downing.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he has not seen the proposed Iranian memo, and that there is no chance that Canada, Ukraine or any of the other countries that lost citizens would ever agree to waive their rights to hold Iran to account.
“That would not be in line with the discussion we have had so far and the resolve we have shown to stand up for justice for the families,” Champagne said Thursday in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“Some entities may want to spread some information that may not be accurate,” the minister added.
“I would be a little bit careful at this time that there might be actors that might want to spread rumours, at a time where the grieving families are looking for facts. They are grieving, and they want to be reassured that we are all working in a similar fashion to achieve that.”
Radio Farda is a Persian-language broadcaster that is part of the independent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty network funded by the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Thursday marked 100 days since the crash, and Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada said his country is losing patience with Iran, regardless of the formidable challenges the country has faced in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andriy Shevchenko, the Ukrainian envoy, said his government may consider other “mechanisms” to force Iran to hand over the black boxes but he declined to say what those might be.
“We are very dissatisfied with the non-progress on this,” he said in an interview Thursday. “We’ve had more than enough time to have some action and some concrete steps on this.”
Shevchenko confirmed that his government received a memo from Iran that he called “a working document that does not address all the issues we want to be covered.” He said the memo deals with the issue of compensation.
Shevchenko said Thursday’s anniversary of the incident was significant.
“It’s 100 days today. We have had too much grief, too few answers and too little action.”
On Wednesday, the international group comprised of the countries that lost nationals in the crash — Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain — held a teleconference during which they discussed another avenue of compensation for the grieving families.
Champagne said the group received an update from the lawyer representing Ukraine International Airlines and its insurance company to check on the progress of the statutory compensation that the airline is required to pay to the families of the victims under international civil aviation rules.
“It’s a private matter between the families and the airline. But since the beginning I’ve paid a particular interest,” Champagne explained. He said he and his fellow foreign ministers want to do what they can to help the process along.
“We got a status report from the law firm,” said Champagne, but he had no timeline on when that process might bring results for grieving families.
Last month, the government appointed former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale as its special adviser to the Ukraine plane crash investigation. The former Saskatchewan MP held many portfolios, including Public Safety, which oversees the RCMP.
Champagne said Goodale has been talking to the victims’ families “for a good part of the week.”
Grieving families have previously complained the government became too preoccupied with the pandemic to deal with them.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 16, 2020.