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Thank you for being here this morning.
As you all know, the entire country was stunned by last week’s tragedy.
We were all shocked to learn that Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 had been shot down by Iran.
News of the death of 57 Canadians – of 138 passengers – of 176 people, left Canada bereaved.
But, in these dark times we have also witnessed a wonderful outpouring of solidarity.
We now know many of the stories of the 57 Canadians, of the 29 permanent residents, and of the visitors and students who made up the 138 people coming to Canada that day.
Across the country, Canadians came together to pay tribute to the victims.
To offer their condolences to their families.
To be there for their community.
The outpouring of love and support we’ve witnessed this past week has been a beautiful tribute not only to the victims’ memory, but to their spirit.
What happened last week was nothing short of a national tragedy.
To the families and loved ones of the victims: all Canadians are mourning your loss.
You are in our thoughts and in our hearts during this most difficult time.
As we have repeatedly said, our top priority right now is to support the victims’ families and loved ones.
In recent days, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, Minister Champagne, my Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra and I have met with families affected by this tragedy – in Edmonton, Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.
On Wednesday, Parliamentary Secretary Alghabra and Minister Garneau held a press conference to provide an update on the latest developments.
They announced that our government and Health Canada are working to ensure that those who are grieving have access to mental health services.
I have asked Senator Stan Kutcher, a mental health expert, to advise the emergency response unit on how to best support the families.
I would also like to remind everyone that last week our government set up a dedicated phone line and email address for families with immigration requests.
Global Affairs Canada has also created a website containing information on the support available to those who lost a loved one.
Our government is waiving or reimbursing all fees for visas and other required travel documents, and expediting requests.
This means that, while regular application screening still applies, we can issue visas to families in a matter of hours instead of weeks.
Other needed travel and status documents such as Permanent Resident cards and permits are also being processed much more quickly than they usually would, in these particular circumstances.
As part of Wednesday’s update, Minister Garneau also talked about assistance for families and we now have more details to share with Canadians.
As a first step, the government will give families of the victims who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents $25,000 per victim to assist with their immediate needs such as funeral arrangements and travel.
This is a unique and unprecedented situation because of the international sanctions placed on Iran, and the difficulties that that imposes on these families.
I want to be clear: We expect Iran to compensate these families.
But I have met them.
They can’t wait weeks. They need support now.
Again, this is just a first step.
These families have lost loved ones in extraordinary circumstances, and it makes this period of grieving that much more challenging.
Our government remains firmly committed to obtaining justice for those who lost loved ones - and that includes financial compensation.
We also know that families are looking for legal information and resources and I’m pleased to announce that we are working with Pro Bono Ontario to provide more support.
A dedicated national 1-800 line will connect callers from anywhere in Canada to a lawyer who can provide legal information and advice.
In times like these, I am incredibly proud to see Canadians coming together in support of those who are hurting.
Air Canada and their partners at Qatar Airways have been facilitating travel for those wishing to travel from Canada to Iran or from Iran to Canada.
Our government is working with the Canadian Bankers Association so that families can manage the estates of the victims more easily.
Similarly, we’ve also been working with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association to ensure that families are receiving the services and support to which they are entitled.
Finally, a number of wonderful initiatives including Canada Strong and others have also been set up by communities across the country to provide additional support to those in mourning.
I encourage Canadians to make a donation if they can.
Our government is also looking to support these efforts and we will have more to share in the coming days.
Canada continues to call for a thorough and credible investigation into last week’s tragedy.
Yesterday, Minister Champagne was in London to convene the members of the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS752.
They agreed on a framework to guide our engagement with the Iranian authorities.
And as we speak, Minister Champagne is in Oman meeting with his Iranian counterpart to discuss how we can bring justice and accountability to the families of the victims.
He is also reiterating Canada’s call for de-escalation in the region. As we have said before, last week’s missile attacks by Iran in Iraq put the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk.
Minister Sajjan has been meeting with troops in the region, who have been working hard with our allies to stabilize Iraq and counter Daesh.
One week after the tragedy, the situation continues to evolve.
I want to assure Canadians that our government is working on all fronts to support the grieving families and to get answers to our questions.
We are working hard to bring some peace of mind to those affected by last week’s tragedy.
Our top priority is to support them during this incredibly difficult time.
Once again, I thank you all for joining us.