OTTAWA — Former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale has been named a special adviser to the Trudeau government into Iran’s downing of a commercial airliner in January.
The appointment on Tuesday follows complaints last week from the families of some of the Canadians killed in the crash that COVID-19 is detracting from efforts to hold Iran to account.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Goodale will examine the lessons learned from Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 as well as other air disasters, including Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Air India Flight 182.
Goodale will support ongoing government efforts and come up with recommendations on “tools and mechanisms” needed to prevent future disasters.
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Goodale’s appointment comes as Iran missed a deadline last week to surrender the flight recorders from the jetliner, which the Iranian military shot down on Jan. 8. All 176 people aboard were killed, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
Iran’s representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal promised on March 11 to transfer the black boxes to Ukraine within two weeks to assist with its investigation into the crash, but as of March 26 that had yet to occur.
Goodale, a veteran Saskatchewan MP, was Canada’s public safety minister until his defeat in last fall’s federal election and has overseen numerous other portfolios, including finance and natural resources.
“The Ukraine International Airlines tragedy should never have occurred, and the families and loved ones of the victims deserve to know how and why it happened. While we work to get them the accountability, justice and closure they deserve, we also need to develop a strategy on how to best respond to international air disasters,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“I am confident that Ralph Goodale has the experience to help us identify best practices and support efforts to ensure that families are properly compensated.”
The already-frustrated families of those Canadians killed in the crash have expressed concerns that COVID-19 is distracting the government when it comes to holding Iran to account. They have also had difficulty getting answers from Ottawa as it responds to the health crisis.
In an interview with The Canadian Press last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne noted Iran was one of hardest-hit countries in the COVID-19 pandemic. But he said Canada still had a duty to push for answers on behalf of the families and loved ones of those who died in the crash.
“We have to push for these answers and push the Iranian regime for that,” Champagne said.
Champagne said the government isn’t forgetting the promises it made to Canadian families after the tragedy.
“We said to them we’d stand up for them from Day 1 and we will continue to do so. We’re seeking answers from Iran. We want accountability, justice, transparency.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020.