The families of victims of Flight PS752 held a coordinated set of rallies last Monday, October 5, across 9 cities in Canada, the US and Europe. The event, titled the “Justice Rally”, was organized by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, and it was live streamed in real time from all 9 locations in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Washington DC, Frankfurt, and London.
Although COVID-19 precautions imposed restrictions on the size of the concurrent gatherings at all locations, an impressive number of 15,000 of the supporters attended the rally virtually in support of the families. The rally was attended physically by 176 of the victims’ families across the locations in honour of the 176 innocent passengers and crew who were killed on board of the Ukrainian airliner that was downed near Tehran by two missiles of Iran’s IRGC forces on January 8, 2020.
Hamed Esmaeilion, the spokesperson for the Association, delivered the Association’s statement in Ottawa. He recounted the Iranian government’s criminal acts in relation to the downing of Flight PS752, and dismissed Iran’s claims that the shooting of the missiles was due to a “human error.” Mr. Esmaeilion stated the families’ demands:
1. Condemnation of the Iranian government’s conduct by the ICAO and the governments of the affected countries
2. A fair, comprehensive and independent investigation without any interference by the Iranian government
3. Avoiding the use of the word “accident” by the media to refer to this downing until an independent investigation reveals the many facets of this murder
4. Disclosure of the information and findings that the governments of Ukraine, Canada, and other countries possess
5. Inclusion of legal representation of the families as observers for the purpose of all investigations
Morever, Mr. Esmaeilion pointed out to the dedication of the families to seek the truth and justice for their loved ones. “Justice is not negotiable. Justice cannot be found around negotiating tables,” Esmailion stated. “Justice is only attainable in a court of law, and murderers must be seated at the accused stand, not around a negotiation table.”
A number of Canadian officials and Ukrainian diplomats attended the event in several cities and delivered speeches in solidarity with the victims’ families. In Ottawa, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affair of Canada spoke at the event, highlighting the Iranian government’s responsibility in this atrocious mass murder. He restated the Government of Canada’s commitment to stand with the families and obtain answers from Iran on how and why the airliner was downed, indicating that Canada will not ever be intimidated by Iran nor the complexities of the issues faced by the government. Minister Champagne continued to urge the ICAO to take responsibility and help the affected countries to get the justice and accountability that they seek. Other speakers in Ottawa included the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, as well as Ali Ehsassi MP who both reiterated the government’s pledge to continue on the fight to justice.
In Toronto, Michael Parsa MPP addressed the families and stated that the Iranian government will not be allowed to leave the questions unanswered or walk away from the atrocity that it has caused.
Additionally, Reza Moridi, former Ontario cabinet minister, gave a speech urging the Canadian government to impose more strict measures against the activities and influence of Iran’s IRGC on the Canadian soil.
In Winnipeg, three members of provincial parliament and cabinet ministers delivered their remarks in support of the families. The Honourable Ron Schuler, Manitoba’s Minister of Transportation, called for investigations, answers and justice for the lives that were lost on board of the Ukrainian flight. Other speakers in Winnipeg included Wab Kinew, Manitoba’s NDP Leader, and Dougald Lamont, Manitoba’s Liberal Leader, indicating a cross-party support for the cause of justice for Flight PS752.
In between the speeches, the names of all victims of the downing were recited followed by a chilling metallic chime as a reminder of the horrific pain and sufferings of the innocent victims underlining the call for justice. The names were recited in six groups at different times during the Justice Rally, starting from the flight crew, and then moving on to individual travellers, university students, mothers with their children, and those with their entire families on board of the flight.
Finally, the Association’s third online petition was officially handed over to the ICAO staff in Montreal. The petition, which raised more than 14,000 signatures, called on the ICAO council to take a stance on this important topic under its mandate and issue a stern statement of condemnation of the Iranian government for its attack on Flight PS752 and its gross negligence and extensive breaches of ICAO regulations.
The Association is grateful for the outpouring of support and for the heartwarming attendance of everyone who responded to the families’ call to stand with us in the Justice Rally virtually. The families stand united on this difficult path, and we will not stop until the truth is revealed and justice is served.