Champagne says Canada, allies deserve answers on downed UIA Flight PS752: Chris Hall
'The world is entitled to know what happened.'
Canada's foreign affairs minister says he's still lining up international backing for his demand that Iran allow Canadians officials to help identify the victims of the missile attack that killed 57 Canadians shortly after their plane took off from Tehran.
"The first thing is to get access to make sure we can provide consular service to the families and the loved ones because Canadians, Canada, the families, they want answers," Francois-Philippe Champagne said in an interview Saturday with CBC's The House.
Answers may be hard to find. Iran already has moved debris from the crash site. Iran is insisting that it will maintain control of the plane's black boxes. Champagne said it all underscores the reasons why Canada is determined to have its own investigators looking into why the plane was shot down, and who's responsible.
"That's why it is so crucial. Until and unless we are on the ground in Iran, physically in Tehran, physically having access to the site, physically being present, we have to rely on second-hand information," Champagne said.
Iran announced early Saturday that its military "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible.
A team of Canadian officials has already arrived in Ankara, Turkey in preparation to travel to Teheran, but Champagne said only two had received visas to enter Iran as of Friday night.
The problem is leverage. Canada doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran. There is still no Canadian embassy there, even though the the Liberals indicated in the 2015 election campaign that they were looking at resuming diplomatic contact with Iran.
Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi told the House that providing consular services to the families of the 57 victims would have been easier if Canada had a formal presence in Iran.
"What I do note is that we have been cooperating very closely with our international partners," said Ehsassi, one of only two MPs of Iranian descent in Parliament. "We have been reaching out to experts because we understand full well that we have to get to the bottom of this and the the relatives of all these people require answers."
Champagne said he worked the phones all day Friday with his counterparts, lining up support for Canada's demands and agreeing with the U.K., Sweden, Ukraine and Afghanistan — all countries who lost citizens in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 — to press Iran for a proper investigation.
Opposition MP calls for sanctions against Iran
Conservative Defence Critic James Bezan wants Canada to go one step farther. He said the Trudeau government should impose sanctions under the so-called Magnitsky Act on Iran's political and security leadership.
The law, passed in 2017, allows Canada to impose economic and travel restrictions on foreign officials responsible for human rights violations. The law has been used to sanction human rights violations in Russia and Venezuela among other countries.
"We have already named all sorts of people from around the world but we have yet to name, one single Iranian and there's no way that Iranian officials should be given a free pass."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the Trump administration was targeting eight individuals for sanctions, including senior advisers to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Government considering all options
Champagne told The House that the government is prepared to consider all options, including going to the United Nations or the International Court of Justice, to ensure those responsible for the missile attack are held to account.
"We are looking at everything possible which would be constructive and useful under the circumstances," he said.
But he added that the priority now is getting Canadian officials into Iran and providing the families with consular assistance.
"The world is entitled to know what happened and because we have the second largest contingent, tragically, of victims in the crash, we will seek justice. We will seek certainly the answers on behalf of the families, on behalf of the loved ones, on behalf of Canada and, we think, on behalf of the world."