Edmonton

'All Canadians are mourning': Trudeau attends Alberta vigil for victims of Flight PS752

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other dignitaries attended a public memorial service at the University of Alberta Sunday to remember victims of this week's air disaster outside Tehran, Iran.

Canadian PM tells Iran disaster vigil he will pursue justice

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told those in attendance at an Edmonton memorial service for the victims of Flight PS752 that he would not rest until there is 'justice and accountability' for the tragic event. 1:07

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told hundreds gathered on Sunday at an Edmonton memorial for victims of this week's air disaster outside Tehran that Canada stands united in grief. 

"Thank you all for gathering here in this moment of national pain," Trudeau said at the event at a packed sports centre at the University of Alberta. 

"Across this great country, we stand united together in this time of sorrow. 

"All Canadians were heartbroken to hear that Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 had crashed. All Canadians were shocked and outraged to learn that it had been brought down by an Iranian missile. 

"This tragedy struck our Iranian-Canadian community, leaving cities like Edmonton reeling. But this was truly a Canadian tragedy. All Canadians are mourning your loss."

Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed Wednesday, killing 176 passengers and crew on board, including 57 Canadians. The plane was struck by a missile or missiles launched by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the missiles were fired due to "human error."

Members of the Iranian community break down during a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane disaster in Iran this past week in Edmonton on Sunday. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau, his voice sometimes breaking, told the vigil that he would "pursue justice and accountability" for what happened.

"This tragedy should have never occurred, and I want to assure you that you have my full support during this extraordinarily difficult time ... you give us purpose to pursue justice and accountability for you," said Trudeau, who has demanded Canada take part in the crash probe.

"We will not rest until there are answers."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney lamented an "epic demonstration of human folly." Kenney, a political foe of Trudeau, told the vigil he was confident the prime minister would give his all to find out what happened.

The death toll included a number of people bound for Alberta, most with connections to Edmonton. Initial reports from multiple sources and community members indicated that as many as 30 people connected to the Edmonton community died in the crash. So far, CBC News has been able to confirm 15 names of Alberta victims.

Grave losses

Organizers said 2,300 people attended Sunday's memorial service, organized by the University of Alberta in collaboration with the local Iranian-Canadian community and the City of Edmonton.

Kenney, David Turpin, president of the University of Alberta and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also spoke at the public memorial service.

"The University of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and Canada have suffered one of their gravest losses ever," Turpin said.  

"Among the women, men and children aboard Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 were members of our communities. They were our family, they were our students, faculty and alumni. They were our friends and our colleagues.

"Universities across the country have also lost students, faculty and alumni in the tragedy. Canada has lost a tremendous body of talented, innovative and entrepreneurial people eager to make our universities, our cities, our provinces, our country and the world a better place for all."

Mourners place candles and photographs during a vigil for those who were among the 176 people who were killed when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed after takeoff near Tehran, Iran, outside the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (Codie McLachlan/The Canadian Press)

New scholarship launched

A scholarship fund, in honour of Mojgan Daneshmand, a professor of electrical engineering, her husband Pedram Mousavi, a professor of mechanical engineering, and other victims of flight PS752 was announced at the memorial by U of A's Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes.  

"These people were dedicated to building a better Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and world," Forbes said. "It now falls to each of us to continue to build an enduring legacy. And there's no better way to do so than to provide the opportunity for others — future generations — to become beacons of light."

Ghazal Pakseresht grieved the short life of her friend and Persian school classmate, 14-year-old Daria Mousavi, who died in the crash. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Daneshmand and Mousavi died in the crash with their daughters, Daria Mousavi, 14, and Dorina Mousavi, 9. 

Daria's Persian school classmate Ghazal Pakseresht grieved the short life of her friend at the memorial.  

"She didn't deserve to leave this world. I can't possibly imagine what it was like for her on that plane. What her last thoughts were before the plane crashed," Pakseresht said.

"Daria has left us but her heart and soul will always be with us and her kindness and amazing personality will never be forgotten."

Vigils have been held across Canada to remember the victims.

A photo of University of Calgary alumni Marzieh Foroutan is displayed during a memorial service at the university on Sunday. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Earlier Sunday, hundreds attended a memorial at the University of Calgary. Calgary high school student Arshia Arbabbahrami, engineer Kasra Saati, and University of Calgary alumni Marzieh Foroutan and Shadi Jamshidi were passengers on the flight.

Saghar Nasr, a close friend of Foroutan's, said she didn't want to believe the news. 

"She was really kindhearted," she said. "It's a great loss."

'We will always bear these scars'

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was among several hundred people who attended a vigil today at the University of Toronto to remember six students killed in the crash of a Ukraine plane in Iran. An emotional Freeland, who is of Ukrainian background, declared the loss of life a loss for all of Canada.

"Nothing will ever replace these brilliant lives that have been cut short," Freeland said. "We will always bear these scars. Now, though, is the time for all of us to come together in our loss."

Close to 1,000 people packed into a Halifax auditorium Saturday to honour the victims from Nova Scotia. 

"Today is the day of grief, for losing our loved one, for missing them, for not seeing them anymore, for not hearing their voice, not seeing their smiles," Alireza Nafarieh, president of the Iranian Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, said during the vigil.

Even in small, northern communities, many share connections to Iran crash victims.

A small group of people gathered at Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum for a candlelight vigil on Saturday. In Yellowknife's small Iranian community, many were only one or two degrees of separation from victims of the crash.

"It was another [piece of] terrible news in a series of terrible news from the region," said Ramin Mostmand, an Iranian-Canadian who lives in Yellowknife. "This news is really taking a toll on everyone."

With files from The Canadian Press

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