OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in an interview Monday that the victims of the Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran would still be alive if the recent escalation of tensions in the region had not happened.
The U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in a Jan. 3 drone strike prompted Iran to launch a missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops on Jan. 8, hours before it shot down the passenger jet in what the regime has said was an accident. All 176 aboard were killed, including 57 Canadians.
Global News anchor Dawna Friesen noted that Michael McCain — the CEO of Canadian processed meat giant Maple Leaf Foods, whose colleague lost family in the crash — had earlier in the day called President Donald Trump a “narcissist” and accused him of contributing to the loss of life with “irresponsible, dangerous, ill-conceived behavior.”
“Is he wrong?” Freisen asked Trudeau.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see a range of conclusions and messages coming from all Canadians of different types,” Trudeau responded.
“Do you think that the people who died on that plane are collateral damage in the tensions between Iran and the U.S.?” Freisen followed up.
“I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” Trudeau said. “This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it. And it is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on deescalation, on moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involved further conflict.”
Trudeau added that the international community had been “very, very clear about needing to have a non-nuclear Iran,” but also in “managing the tensions in the region that are brought about by U.S. actions as well.”
Trudeau said Canada did not receive a heads up before the United States killed Soleimani, and that he “obviously” would have preferred one.
“The U.S. makes its determinations. We attempt to work as an international community on big issues. But sometimes countries take actions without informing their allies,” he said.
Trudeau said that while the government was working as quickly as possible to bring the bodies home for burial, it was likely to take weeks or “perhaps even months.”
Canada said on Monday that Iran had signaled that Canadian investigators would take an active role in the probe of the crash, which Iran said at the weekend had been caused by a missile it fired in a “disastrous mistake.”
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Rosalba O’Brien; Pluralist contributed to this report.)