Canada offers thousands to families of victims on Flight PS752

Canada will start giving the families of people killed in the downing of UIA Flight PS752 thousands of dollars to help with immediate needs, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stressing it's only a first step on the road to getting Iran to compensate those grieving loved ones.

"I want to be clear, we expect Iran to compensate these families," Trudeau said during a news conference in Ottawa on Friday morning.

"But I have met them, they can't wait weeks. They need support now."

Of the 176 passengers and crew killed, 57 were Canadian citizens and 29 were permanent residents, said the prime minister. 

He said the government will give those families $25,000, per victim, to help with immediate needs like funeral arrangements.

Trudeau's latest update comes as Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne is in Oman for a rare face-to-face meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, following last week's disaster near Tehran. Canada cut diplomatic ties with the country in 2012.

Champagne is expected to press Zarif for concrete action after Canada and an international cohort laid out their demands, including an independent criminal investigation, in the wake of Iran admitting to accidentally shooting down the flight last week.

Champagne was in Britain on Thursday to chair the first meeting of an international co-ordination and response group made up of representatives of nations that lost citizens in the crash: Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom.

After a day of closed-door meetings, ministers from the five nations emerged with a framework for co-operation with Iran.

The international group's demands include:

  • Full access within Iran to allow them to provide consular services to relatives of the victims.
  • Assurance the victim identification process is conducted with "dignity, transparency and to international standards, and to ensure families' wishes are respected."
  • Access to a thorough, independent and transparent international investigation governed by the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
  • A commitment from Iran it will continue to assume full responsibility for the disaster and co-operate with compensation talks.
  • An "independent criminal investigation."

"We are judging Iran every day, demand by demand," said Champagne.

"There's a path for Iran to continue in the first step they've done, which is to admit full responsibility. And when you admit full responsibility, there are consequences that flow from them and full co-operation is part of that."

Possible interim compensation for victims

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok attended the meeting to brief the ministers on lessons learned during his country's five-year probe of the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Investigators concluded the aircraft was shot down by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.

Under international law, Iran is leading the latest aviation investigation because the crash occurred within its borders, but there are precedents for handing that responsibility over to another country that suffered losses.

Most of the people on board were destined for Canada, including 57 Canadian citizens.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, shown at a news conference after a meeting of the International Coordination and Response Group for families of the victims of Flight PS752, is meeting with his Iranian counterpart Friday in Oman. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

On Wednesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Iran is co-operating with the two Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators on the scene, but Canada still wants official status in Iran's investigation — which would allow Canadian officials to take part in the analysis of the flight recorders' data.

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