Canada grieves for the dead after Iran aircraft tragedy

Ceremonies held across the country after 57 Canadians among the 176 people killed when plane was shot down near Tehran.

Toronto memorial Iran crash
In the face of mounting evidence, Iran acknowledged it shot down the Ukrainian jetliner by accident [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

About 2,000 people packed a memorial in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday to remember the victims of a Ukrainian airliner shot down in Iran in a disaster that killed 57 Canadians mainly of Iranian descent.

The ceremony was hosted by the cross-cultural Iranian-Canadian charity Tirgan.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak, reporting from Toronto, described the turnout as “overwhelming” with a queue of people 100 metres (328 feet) long waiting to get in.

“They read out the names of the Canadian victims from across the country of this tragedy in Tehran,” Lak said. “There was hardly a dry eye.”

Faced with mounting evidence, Iran acknowledged on Saturday it shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called it a “disastrous mistake”.

The Boeing 737-800 was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, with 167 passengers from several countries and nine crew members, including 82 Iranians. Many were dual nationals.

“There is no justice in this world,” said Masoud Niknam whose brother Farhad Niknam, a dentist and married father of two children from Toronto, was killed in the crash.

“I don’t believe in anything any more. We will have a hole in our hearts forever and that cannot be filled with anything.”

Edmonton memorial

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a memorial service in the western city of Edmonton where 13 victims lived and said it had been gut-wrenching to hear from the relatives of those who were killed.

“This tragedy should never have occurred,” Trudeau told the 2,300 people who attended the service. “We will not rest until there are answers. We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.”

Other memorials took place across the country.

At the Vancouver Art Gallery, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan also called the crash a national tragedy.

The memorials follow several days of grieving in Canada, including candlelight vigils in many cities.

“The community is unbelievable. The people feel the whole of Canada is hugging them,” said Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.

Mourners this week placed flowers and scattered rose petals outside the Edmonton office of University of Alberta engineering professor Pedram Mousavi, who died in the crash with his wife, engineering professor Mojgan Daneshmand, and their two daughters.

“They were both so kind and caring,” wrote Dennis Ramsawak, who took classes with both professors, in an online memorial. “I’m so heartbroken. It’s a great loss for the community.”

Edmonton’s Iranian community is collecting funds to pay funeral and other expenses for the victims’ families.

Some Edmonton relatives have already travelled to Iran to bury their loved ones, Akbari said, adding that transporting remains to Canada for burial would be complex and costly.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies