Ralph Goodale appointed special advisor for Canada's response to shot down Iran flight

Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Tehran on January 8, 2020.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Tehran on January 8

Liberal Regina-Wascana candidate Ralph Goodale greets a room full of supporters on Oct. 21, 2019 in Regina. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Ralph Goodale has been appointed as a special adviser to the Trudeau government into Iran's downing of a commercial airliner in January.

On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Tehran, Iran by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The crash killed 176 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 Canadian permanent residents. 

Goodale will be tasked to examine lessons learned from the disaster to develop a framework to help the federal government's response to international air disasters. He will also provide recommendations on best practices and advice on tools and mechanisms to prevent future disasters. 

"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," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. 

Federal government should also be transparent on coronavirus response: Goodale

Governments must be as transparent as possible with Canadians about response measures for COVID-19, says former Liberal public safety minister Ralph Goodale.

The cascade of daily briefings from the prime minister all the way down to local health officials are essential to that process, but he said it's equally important that the government makes sure it's being held accountable as it develops its response.

"It's very important for them to be there and be present and visible and accessible in order for people to have the confidence that the system and the country is working," Goodale said in an interview.

A woman wearing a protective face mask walks down to Oxford Circus underground station at rush hour in London, Britain, March 23, 2020. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

The Liberals faced major criticism last week when their emergency aid bill for COVID-19 contained broad powers to raise and spend money without Parliament's approval for the next 21 months.

The Opposition demanded a change, and those provisions now expire at the end of September.

Goodale said he's not sure why the government would have sought such extended authority. He doesn't believe they were trying to hide anything, given that they took the unusual step of giving opposition parties the bill ahead of time.

"The dispute was unfortunate, it set back that process of working together a bit," he said.

"When future measures are considered, the government will be very alert to the fact that measures of that kind that are
open-ended or for long periods of time should be avoided."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media about the COVID-19 pandemic during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, March 20, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The opposition also won the right to have House of Commons committees oversee the government's COVID-19 efforts.

The health committee is set to convene by teleconference Tuesday, with the finance committee expected in the coming days. 

That kind of parliamentary oversight is essential, Goodale said. 

But he said there also needs to be oversight of other elements of the government's response, including security measures.

For example, governments need to be clear about the tools that might be deployed to ensure people are complying with mandatory isolation or provincial restrictions on gatherings of a certain size.

Some jurisdictions have said they are using cell-phone tracking; others are urging people to call local bylaw officers or police.

"The tools that they use to do that need to be tools that are fully accountable and transparent and not done in any nefarious way or in secret because the consent of Canadians is dependent on that transparency and accountability,"  Goodale said.

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying every option is on the table as the government considers its response, Goodale said the main pieces of legislation the government could use are the Quarantine Act, and the Emergencies Act.

The latter is a never-before-used piece of legislation that allows the federal government to override provincial powers in the event of a national emergency.

An undated transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

While COVID-19 and its physical and economic impact on Canada is unprecedented, Goodale said the Emergencies Act should be used with extreme caution. At the same time, he said it can't be invoked at the last minute.

"The government of Canada will want to be ahead of that curve and it will be a very serious judgment call as to when that point arrives, if it does," he said

"But given the nature of this beast, it's one where that decision making, the weighing and calibration, will be incredibly

There are other items the government must be thinking about, he said, including the safety of Canada's food supply. Efforts to make sure farmers have the financial support they require, that food inspectors can still work, and that supply lines stay open are all required.

"None of that requires special legal authority. What it requires in all of those cases is political decision-making and financial investments," he said.

Goodale served as Trudeau's public safety minister from 2015 to 2019 and was an MP for close to 30 years before losing his Saskatchewan seat in last fall's election.

He said the country has never before seen such a crisis and admitted that security and emergency management legislation rolled out under his watch was rarely debated in the context of a pandemic response.

People were aware of the possibility, given previous outbreaks of SARS and H1N1, but he said most of the discussion revolved around responding to terrorism or natural disasters.

"A health related emergency of this order of magnitude that would actually disrupt the whole pattern of global trade and commerce and global transportation and communication and impose this kind of disruption and threat was not something that was contemplated as the first immediate example of what you're likely to be dealing with," Goodale said.

"And yet here we are."

Goodale said while he's fielded some calls from government with regards to its COVID-19 response, he's not directly involved.

With files from CBC News