Amid repatriation struggles, 17 Canadian families fighting to bring loved ones home
OTTAWA -- As Canada and Iran negotiate the legal issues involved with repatriating the remains of Canadians and dual citizens, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko says there are 17 Canadian families who are currently fighting to see their loved ones' remains returned to Canada.
There were 57 Canadian citizens killed when an Iranian surface-to-air missile struck a Ukrainian aircraft over Tehran.
"As of Monday, Canada signalled to us that there are 17 Canadian families which would like remains of their loved ones to be brought to Canada," Shevchenko told CTV Power Play Host Evan Solomon during a Wednesday interview.
Shevchenko added that the number, which was conveyed to his government on Monday, is "fluid" and could change.
While some of those 17 families may have lost more than one loved one and others might wish for the remains to remain in Iran, the low number could hint at the struggles Canadian families have been facing while trying to repatriate the remains of their loved ones.
Shevchenko said Ukraine stands ready to help Canadian families repatriate their loved ones' remains, provided they meet two conditions. First, there must be "clear will" from the families in question, and second, "all the legal issues between Iran and Canada should be resolved."
A key issue that families are struggling with is that of dual-nationality. While Canada recognizes the validity of both of the passports belonging to dual citizens, Iran does not. As a result, the country is maintaining that just three Canadians died in the tragedy -- not 57.
This presents challenges as Canadian families attempt to have the remains of their dual-national loved ones brought back to Canada.
Farbod Pourjam lost his uncle, Mansour, in the tragedy. Mansour was a dual citizen, which means his family faces an additional hurdle in repatriating his remains -- as Iran doesn't recognize Mansour's Canadian citizenship.
"Mansour was coming to Canada, he was a Canadian," Pourjam told CTV News' Molly Thomas in an interview for CTV National News.
"He has a 13-year-old son here, Ryan, and that's what Ryan wants."
Canada will convene the International Coordination and Response Group for families of victims of the crash in London, U.K. tomorrow.
In the meeting, representatives of Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain will discuss "how to secure full co-operation from Iranian authorities," Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters during a Wednesday Press Conference.
The government has assured that the repatriation of remains is a top priority as they move forward.
Omar Alghabra, who serves as parliamentary secretary to the deputy prime minister, acknowledged that it has been "a very difficult process for families."
"No Canadian has been repatriated yet. We are supporting families to achieve that goal as quickly as possible through the process of identification. And we will support families...whatever challenges or needs they have to repatriate their loved ones," Alghabra told reporters Wednesday.