‘Your complete nation stands with you’ Justin Trudeau tells Edmonton throughout aircraft crash memorial
EDMONTON — A couple thousand mourners listened to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deliver sorrowful remarks and a message of unity in Edmonton, a city grieving the loss of 13 people who had been on board a passenger plane struck by an Iranian missile just days prior, killing all onboard.
“Your entire country stands with you tonight, tomorrow, and in all the years to come,” he told about 2,300 people who attended a memorial service on Sunday.
Trudeau called it a “moment of national pain” and recounted stories he’d heard from impacted families over the past few days, including one of a 10-year-old “who was confident he’d one day be prime minister of this country he loved so much.”
Shock waves rippled through Alberta’s capital throughout the week as the small Iranian community learned of those it lost and the events that led to the tragedy near Tehran. Since Wednesday, Edmonton has been part of the center of the country’s grief, anger and confusion. Ten victims had ties to the University of Alberta and a memorial service was held by the school, packing a South End sports center — and watched across the country.
“All Canadians were shocked and outraged to learn that it had been brought down by an Iranian missile,” Trudeau told the crowd at an overflowing high school.
“We will not rest until there are answers.”
The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was carrying 57 Canadians and 138 were on their way to the country. All 176 passengers died after the plane was struck by a missile unintentionally launched by Iran near Tehran.
Around a dozen emotional speeches were delivered by community members, friends and family of the victims.
Reza Nasseri took a deep breath before beginning to speak about close friend Pedram Mousavi, a professor of mechanical engineering at the U of A, as well as other victims in the crash “who had so much to offer.”
“We miss you greatly,” he said. “They will always be in our thoughts.”
Maryam Hejazi remembered nine-year-old Dorina Mousavi’s smile from her days playing soccer on a local team she started.
“What comes to my mind is her strong sense of curiosity,” she said, adding that Dorina likely inherited it from her “scientist parents,” Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand. The family, including Dorina’s sister, 14-year-old Daria Mousavi, perished in the crash.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson paused at times as he spoke of the city’s grief.
“Whenever tested by tragedy or disaster, Edmontonians do what comes naturally to us,” he said. “We rally around our families, our neighbours, our friends, our fellow Edmontonians, and our fellow Canadians, and we provide comfort.”
Every member of the community lost was honored at the service with musical performances, letters, and many tearful remarks. After a moment of silence, Trudeau, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Iveson and leaders of the university’s community spoke.
Kenney called it “one of the most tragic” days in the history of Alberta and that the losses leave behind a “deep well of sadness.”
“Prime minister, we have confidence that you and the government of Canada will do everything within your power, working with the international community, to get answers,” Kenney said.
“To learn what really caused this appalling destruction of innocent lives.”
Edmonton is home to some 5,000 Iranians — while Vancouver and the GTA each have tens of thousands of people of Iranian descent — making the impact felt viscerally throughout the city. Over the past few decades, its Iranian population has grown, partly due to Alberta’s oil and gas industry and the University of Alberta’s renowned engineering program.
There were other services across the country.
At the University of Toronto, which lost six students in the tragedy, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the loss goes well beyond the university.
“This is Toronto’s loss, this is Ontario’s loss and this is Canada’s loss,” an emotional Freeland told the vigil. “Nothing will ever replace these brilliant lives that have been cut short. We will always … bear these scars.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also spoke to the mourners, telling them that his government stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the Trudeau government in its determination to bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice.
At the Vancouver Art Gallery, National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan called the crash a national tragedy and said the government will work tirelessly to get answers for grieving families.
Eight more Canadian officials will travel Monday to Iran to help investigate the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner and assist families of the Canadians who perished in the crash.
After repeated denials, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that a surface-to-air missile was launched in error, downing the flight just after it took off from Tehran’s airport.
The day before his Edmonton visit, Trudeau told a news conference he was “outraged and furious” that so many Canadians are grieving because of Iran’s actions, and that Iran must take “full responsibility” for the “horrific” incident.
“This is a tragedy that should not have happened,” he said, calling for an immediate effort to de-escalate the regional tensions that contributed to the “great loss of innocent life.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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