Goodale's report on Flight PS752 tragedy says Iran should not be 'investigating itself'

The prime minister's special adviser on the destruction of Flight PS752, Ralph Goodale, issued a report today saying that Iran should not be left in charge of the investigation — since it was the actions of the Iranian military that caused the deadly crash in the first place.

Foreign affairs minister says he does not believe human error is reason Flight PS752 was shot down

Investigators comb through the wreckage of Flight PS752 outside Tehran. (Reuters)

The prime minister's special adviser on the destruction of Flight PS752, Ralph Goodale, issued a report today saying that Iran should not be left in charge of the investigation — since it was the actions of the Iranian military that caused the deadly crash in the first place.

"The party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret," former federal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale wrote in the report, released this afternoon. "That does not inspire confidence or trust."

"In the circumstances of this case, as known thus far, there are indications of incompetence, recklessness and wanton disregard for innocent human life."

Goodale said that while international procedures assign the responsibility for investigating such air disasters to the country where the crash took place, those rules create a "conflict of interest" in military-related incidents and lack "safeguards" to "ensure independence, impartiality or legitimacy."

"This undermines the investigation's credibility and enables a sense of impunity in avoiding essential questions," Goodale wrote. 

WATCH | Goodale says Iran should not be investigating Flight 752 crash:

Iran should not be investigating Flight 752 crash: Goodale report

2 years ago
Duration 2:02
A new Canadian report says Iran should not be investigating the events around Flight PS752, shot down by its own military in January, killing 138 people with ties to Canada. Special advisor Ralph Goodale’s report criticizes the country for its lack of transparency from the start.

Goodale's 74-page report comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shooting down the Ukraine International Airlines plane on Jan. 8 shortly after takeoff in Tehran with surface-to-air missiles. The attack killed all 176 people onboard, including 138 people with ties to Canada.

Justin Trudeau appointed Goodale in March to oversee Canada's response, with a focus on the plight of grieving families. The federal government was accused of doing little for families in the wake of the Air India disaster in 1985 and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash of last year.

As a "country, we must acknowledge shortcomings in our responses to previous tragedies and ensure vital lessons are taken to heart," wrote Goodale. 

Case was 'complex and difficult'

Goodale said investigating the crash was "complex and difficult" in part because Canada does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and has identified it in Canadian law as a "state supporter of terrorism." He said Iran has "not yet been forthcoming" in answering questions posed by Canada — including a key one about the fact that Iran's airspace was left open the night its military forces fired missiles at U.S. locations in Iraq.

"Many of the key details of this horrific event remain unknown to Canada, to the other Coordination Group nations and to the families," said Goodale. 

"Iran bears responsibility for that because — at least thus far — it has not conducted its investigations (safety, criminal or otherwise) in a truly independent, objective and transparent manner, and answers to critical questions have not been forthcoming."

For days after the crash, Iranian officials denied any wrongdoing — until evidence gathered around the world showed otherwise. Only then, when "confronted with irrefutable evidence, they belatedly admitted Iran's responsibility for this deadly travesty" and committed to an investigation, says Goodale's report. 

'Not human error': Champagne

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne also raised concerns about the quality of information being offered by the regime in Tehran. 

"I will question everything they say because I take nothing at face value," Champagne told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "I have questions because there's too many examples that we've seen where ... they have not been forthcoming."

Champagne told host Vassy Kapelos he does not believe the destruction of Flight PS752 can be blamed on human error — but he refused to say what he believes caused the disaster.

"Well, we'll let the process unfold," he said. "What I say is that we saw missiles being fired at the airline, and that, for me, raised all sorts of questions."

Iran has blamed human error and other deficiencies 

Iran has provided updates about its investigation and has "suggested that a lengthy chain of human errors and other deficiencies resulted in the mistaken firing of the Iranian missiles" at the aircraft, the report said.

Canada has rejected Iran's interim investigation report, which claims that the missiles were not properly reoriented after being moved and that a communication breakdown caused two IRGC members guarding the missile to misidentify the commercial plane as a threat and open fire twice without getting approval from senior ranking officers.

"Given the extraordinary nature of this description of events, it is understandable that the victims' families find Iran's explanations to be difficult to accept — at least so far," wrote Goodale. 

Goodale also criticized Iran for the half-year it took to read out the plane's black box flight data recorders — something which is supposed to happen "without delay" after an incident, according to international conventions.

"In the end, it took more than six months, fuelling anxiety and harming credibility," he wrote.

Iran also turned down Canada's request to become an accredited representative in the investigation, which would have given Canada more first-hand knowledge. Instead, Goodale wrote, Canada's status was "limited to that of an observer."

Six people in Iran have been charged in connection with the destruction of Flight PS752. Goodale's report points out that Iran has not released any further details, including "who these people are, what they are alleged to have done, their degree or level of responsibility, the evidence being used against them, the substance of their defence, and the exact judicial process by which their guilt or innocence is being or will be determined."

Canada's response 

The report devotes a chapter to describing how federal officials responded behind the scenes after hearing reports of the crash.

Canada has its own forensic examination and assessment team trying to piece together evidence it's gathering from family members. The independent Transportation Safety Board of Canada will review Iran's final investigation report when it's completed and "point out any deficiencies as necessary," said the report. The International Coordination Response group, made up of countries that lost citizens in the crash, will continue pushing for answers and reparations from Iran, Goodale wrote.

WATCH | Champagne doesn't believe Iran's claim Flight PS752 was shot down as a result of human error.:

Champagne says he doesn't believe Iran when it says Flight 752 was shot down as a result of human error

2 years ago
Duration 2:00
Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne wouldn't say whether he believes Flight PS752 was shot down deliberately.

Last week, Transport Minister Marc Garneau urged countries around the world to endorse Canada's "Safer Skies Commitment Statement." It's an effort to get countries to reduce the risk of aircraft flying over conflict zones. The U.S., Germany, Ukraine, Japan, U.K. and the Republic of Korea are among the countries that have signed so far. 

CBC News has reported family members in Canada who have criticized Iran's government after losing their loved ones in the downing of Flight PS752 have reported they're being targeted with threats and intimidation — and they blame Tehran.

In his report, Goodale urges Canadian police and national security agencies to investigate every case of threats and harassment against Canadians and says they should be "prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

His report also contains a list of recommendations on how Canada should respond to mass casualty events like Flight PS752 in the future. They include putting families' needs at the forefront, combating misinformation and fear by quickly organizing a response, gathering relevant facts early, providing mental health and post traumatic stress counselling services, and delivering facilitation letters to families in lieu of death certificates.

Goodale also cites the idea of creating a national centre of expertise to help law enforcement and the government coordinate and prepare for mass casualty events. 


Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa who focuses on enterprise journalism for television, radio and digital platforms. She earned the Charles Lynch Award and was a finalist for the Michener Award for her exclusive reporting on the toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. She has also uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct against senior military leaders. Her beats include transport, defence and federal government accountability. You can reach her confidentially by email: ashley.burke@cbc.ca or https://www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?