Calgary Herald


$150,000 for families of victims


DUBA I • Iran’s cabine t on Wednesday allocated $150,000 for the families of each of the 176 victims of a Ukrainian plane shot down in Iranian airspace in January, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Dozens of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as many others with ties to Canadian universiti­es, were killed in the crash.

Describing Iran’s handling of the situation as “unacceptab­le,” Ukraine said the amount of compensati­on should be negotiated and called for those responsibl­e to be brought to justice.

According to the IRNA report, an Iranian government statement said: “The cabinet approved the provision of $150,000 or the equivalent in euros as soon as possible to the families and survivors of each of the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash.”

Iran’ s Revolution­ary Guards have said they accidental­ly shot down the Ukraine Internatio­nal Airlines plane shortly after takeoff, mistaking it for a missile when tensions with the United States were high.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the compensati­on should be set through talks, taking into account internatio­nal practice, after establishi­ng the causes of the tragedy and bringing those responsibl­e to justice.

“The Ukrainian side expects from Iran a draft technical report on the circumstan­ces of the aircraft shooting down,” ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said, adding that Iran had yet to implement earlier agreements, without giving details.

“This situation is especially unacceptab­le, since we are talking about the fate of innocent people,” Nikolenko said.

Canada by comparison offered a note on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, repeating calls for Zhang’s release but falling short of a statement about the perceived fairness of the trial.

“Canada is very concerned following the 4- year sentence of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan,” Global Affairs Canada tweeted Tuesday. “We call for her immediate release and that of others who report on the COVID-19 pandemic in China, including Fang Bin, Chen Mei and Cai Wei.”

Several observers in Canada say that response failed to meet basic standards under Canada’s obligation to support human rights abroad, and point to the immense pressure being placed on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to soften his criticism of the Communist state.

“I’m disappoint­ed that there hasn’ t been more on this,” said Margare t Mccuaig- Johnston, for - mer member of the Canada- China Joint Committee on Science and Technology and a senior official in the Department of Finance from 1994 to 2004.

The statement by Ottawa comes amid tension between the Canadian and Chinese government­s, who have been sparring ever since Canadian authoritie­s arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extraditio­n request in 2018. China soon after arrested two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on vague charges that are widely viewed in Canada as retaliatio­n.

Mccuaig- Johnston said the tepid statement by the Trudeau government is a clear indication of its hesitancy against further deepening rifts between the two countries, but she also noted that a softer response is unlikely to win the Chinese leadership over.

“China does not respect other countries that are weak. And so to sit back quietly, meekly, is not an approach that will win us respect in Beijing,” she said.

Others said they hoped more would be coming from Ottawa after the conviction of 37-year-old Zhang, who had posted videos that questioned why Chinese authoritie­s had sought to silence whistleblo­wers about the virus. Other videos suggested China’s lockdowns on citizens had been overly harsh.

“What we have seen from Canada is absolutely not enough,” said Alex Neve, former chair of the Canadian Coalition of Human Rights in China. “We really need to build on the expression of concern in that tweet and make it very clear how seriously we take this case.”

Neve said the trial of Zhang and Hong Kong activists in China is one that will set a precedent for internatio­nal human rights abuses more widely, and requires allied countries to work in tandem to oppose the Chinese regime.

“Zhang Zhan’s case is one that Canada needs to rise to with real seriousnes­s and urgency,” he said.

Canada’s response on Tuesday signalled the growing dependence of the Canadian economy on China, both for trade and foreign direct investment that has flowed into Canada’s natural resource sector.

Charles Burton, a China expert at the Ottawa-based Macdonald- Laurier Institute, said the statement by Ottawa was “indicative of the extent to which the Chinese regime has been able to suppress any Canadian government standing for the rules-based internatio­nal order.”

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