Ontario court awards $107M to families of Flight PS752 victims
Plantiff's lawyer plans to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad
An Ontario court has awarded $107 million, plus interest, to the families of six people who died in the destruction of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 almost two years ago.
The decision was issued publicly today after Justice Edward Belobaba of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice ruled in May that the destruction of the commercial plane shortly after takeoff in Tehran was an intentional act of terrorism.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down the plane on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people onboard, including 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.
The six family members awarded compensation by the court lost spouses, siblings, children, nieces and nephews aboard Flight 752, according to a statement from their lawyer Mark Arnold. They had filed a civil lawsuit against Iran and other officials they believe were to blame for the catastrophe.
In a decision dated Dec. 31, Belobaba awarded $100 million in punitive damages to be shared by the estates of the six victims. The decision awarded another $1 million to family members for the loss of guidance, care and companionship, and $6 million for pain and suffering.
Arnold has said that his team will look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad. He said Iran has oil tankers in other countries and his team will be looking to seize whatever it can to pay what the families are owed.
The case was filed by Shahin Moghaddam, Mehrzad Zarei and Ali Gorji. Fearing reprisals from Iran, some of the other plaintiffs withheld their names.
WATCH: Ontario court concludes Flight 752's destruction was a deliberate terrorist act:
Iran's foreign ministry denounced May's ruling as "shameful" and said the court's decision lacked legitimate evidence. Iran also has publicly rejected Canadian class action lawsuits related to Flight 752, arguing that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction and insisting that all judicial proceedings will be conducted inside Iran.
Belobaba ruled that, based on the balance of probabilities, the plaintiff had established that "terrorist activity ... directly caused the deaths of all onboard." Since the lawsuit was not a criminal case, the plaintiffs did not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the plane was shot down deliberately.
Iran did not defend itself in court, making it a default judgment.
Canadian terrorism law scholars have said there are flaws in the Ontario court's original ruling in May. Those scholars said the judge contorted the law and cherry-picked his way to finding the aircraft was destroyed in an act of terrorism.
Arnold plans to hold a news conference on Tuesday.
Countries gave Iran Jan. 5 deadline to talk
The civil court decision represents the first time in Canada that compensation has been awarded to the families who lost loved ones on Flight 752.
Canada's federal government is working with four other countries that lost citizens on Flight 752 to seek reparations from Iran. A notice of claim was delivered to Iran in June. Iran responded in November, saying it would not meet with the countries' representatives.
The countries have given Iran until Jan. 5 to state whether it's willing to engage in negotiations. A statement issued by the countries says that after Jan. 5, they will "assume that further attempts to negotiate reparations with Iran are futile" and will "seriously consider other actions" to resolve the matters under international law.
The association representing victims' family members in Canada wants the federal government to take the case to the International Court of Justice.
The RCMP decided not to open a criminal investigation into the downing of Flight 752. Instead, the RCMP says it's assisting Ukraine with its criminal investigation. Victims' families have criticized Canada for failing to conduct its own criminal probe.