Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set on Sunday to attend what is expected to be the country's largest memorial to the victims of a Ukrainian airliner shot down in Iran in a disaster that killed 57 Canadians, mainly of Iranian descent.
FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Trudeau's office confirmed on Saturday that the prime minister will address the memorial service, due to be held in a basketball arena that seats 1,700 people in the western city of Edmonton. Thirteen of the victims lived in Edmonton.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will also attend.
Iran acknowledged on Saturday that its military shot down the plane on Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard, in what the country's president called a "disastrous mistake," with air defenses firing in error while on alert after Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
"Canada and the world still have many questions, questions that must be answered," Trudeau said in a news conference in Ottawa on Saturday.
"It is absolutely necessary that Canada participate in this investigation. We expect the full cooperation of Iranian authorities," Trudeau added.
The memorial in Edmonton follows several days of grief in Canada, including candlelight vigils in many cities.
Memorials are also planned on Sunday in Toronto.
"The community is unbelievable. The people feel whole Canada is hugging them," said Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.
Mourners placed flowers and scattered rose petals this week outside the 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 traveled to Iran to bury relatives, Akbari said, adding that transporting remains to Canada for burial would be complex and costly.