'Whole Canadian heart' there for Iranian community at public memorial

Hundreds of people from different cultures poured into the Centro Caboto Centre Sunday to pay their respects and remember the eight Winnipeg victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752.

Hundreds pour into a Winnipeg hall to pay respects for the 8 Winnipeg victims of Flight PS752

Fakhereh Mirrashed shows Joy Loewen her orange scarf. A 'spring colour' to remember her friend Bahareh Hajesfandiari. 'Bahar' in Farsi, said Mirrashed, translates to 'spring.' (Sam Samson/CBC)

Fakhereh Mirrashed couldn't hold back her tears as she laid down a bouquet of flowers by a photo of her friend Bahareh Hajesfandiari.

That's when Joy Loewen, a complete stranger, walked up to her. Loewen gave Mirrashed a hug and said "I don't know you, but I love you. And I'm sorry."

The two were crammed into a hall at the Centro Caboto Centre in Winnipeg with about 500 other people — all there to pay their respects and remember the eight Winnipeg victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752.

People from different cultures and backgrounds packed the room. Mirrashed, who has lived in Winnipeg for 22 years, said she "didn't expect otherwise."

"These people you see here are just the representative. I'm sure the whole Canadian heart is with us, and their prayer is with us."

A book for each victim was placed at the front of the hall where guests could write memories down. The lines were constant. (Sam Samson/CBC)

'They could still be here'

Mirrashed knew Hajesfandiari through the Iranian community. Hajesfandiari taught Mirrashed's two daughters how to speak Farsi through poetry and stories. She said Hajesfandiari, who was an engineer, would always have a legacy here in Winnipeg.

"My heart is breaking because they could still be here, and for years to come serve this beautiful country. They were all educated and they were all positive and at their peak. And I hope those people who are here, they follow and we're all here to serve more."

Photos of Amirhossein Bahabadi Ghorbani, Bahareh Hajesfandiari, Mohammad Mahdi Sadeghi, Anisa Sadeghi and Forough Khadem sat at the front of the hall, along with photos of the other Winnipeg victims. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Fresh flowers surrounded photos of the victims on almost every wall in the hall. It was standing room only as a video played, put together by the Iranian Community of Manitoba. Those who knew and loved the victims shared personal memories they had.

One friend of 10-year-old Anisa Sadeghi, Hajesfandiari's daughter who was also killed, said in the video that she wanted to be a veterinarian, and "she wanted to go to the Olympics for Taekwondo."

'Grateful' for Canadian response to tragedy

Most people were focused on grieving the loss of their friends, but some had world affairs on their minds, too: news that the Iranian government admitted their own military forces shot down the flight, and that Canada's representatives, including consular officials and members of the Transportation Safety Board, will be in Iran Monday.

The crowd of 500 people watch a video created by the Iranian Community of Manitoba, in which friends of the victims shared personal stories and feelings of grief. (Sam Samson/CBC)

"Unfortunately, tensions between some countries happen, it's the people who suffer. And I believe that's the saddest part," said Arian Arianpour, who is with the cultural associaition Iranian Community of Manitoba.

"We are very grateful for what the Canadian government has been doing. Even here in Manitoba, as one of the organizers of this event, I have been talking to some of the officials that are really trying to make these days easier for us."


Sam Samson


Sam Samson is a multimedia journalist who has worked for CBC in Manitoba and Ontario as a reporter and associate producer. Before working for CBC, she studied journalism and communications in Winnipeg. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email