An earlier version of this story stated that 63 crash victims were Canadian; the government has updated that number to 57, which is now reflected in the story.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will not rest until there is full accountability from Iran regarding the shooting down of a civilian aircraft that killed 57 Canadians and many others with links to Canada.
Canadian consular officials are already en route to Tehran to take part in investigations, Trudeau added.
On Friday, the Iranian government took responsibility for shooting down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752, but said it was unintentional and caused by “missiles fired due to human error.”
“What Iran has admitted to is very serious,” Trudeau said in a press conference Saturday afternoon. “Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific. Iran must take full responsibility. Canada will not rest until they get the full accountability justice and closure that the families deserve.”
Trudeau said three Canadians who are part of the government’s standard rapid deployment team will arrive in Iran later today, with additional team members to follow. He said they will be involved in the ongoing investigation, including identifying bodies, and investigating the black box recovered from the crash site.
Iran was initially adamant that the flight went down because of a mechanical issue but would not hand over the black box to Boeing, an American company, and bulldozed the crash site. On Thursday, U.S. intelligence sources began telling news outlets that they believed Iran had shot down the plane. Later Thursday, Trudeau said that Canada had become aware of intelligence information that indicated Iran shot down the airliner.
Asked Saturday if he believed the incident was an accident, Trudeau said that’s something that needs to be answered as part of the investigation. He said compensation from Iran for the victims and their families needs to be “part of the mix.”
The plane went down only hours after Iran attacked a U.S. military position in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals. Video footage, that has since been verified by several news outlets, shows the plane being hit by a missile, turning around to head towards the airport before crashing into the ground. Witnesses have said that the plane went down less than two hours after taking off.
The plane crash killed 176 people. The dead include 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons, and three Germans— the youngest was born in 2016 and the oldest in 1950. Many of the Canadians killed in the crash had bright futures ahead of them, family members previously told VICE; they included newlyweds, children, young families, students, and professors.
“They were really young, many were getting an education… All I can remember is they were filled with kindness,” said Amir Shirzadi, a graduate student at the University of Manitoba and board member with the school’s Iranian Student Association.
Trudeau said the crash was a “bitter pill to swallow” because a lot of these families had fled the Iranian regime previously. He then reiterated his call for de-escalation in the region.
“It is at times of tension like these that tragedies like this crash, can happen causing great loss of innocent life,” Trudeau said.