- We spoke with Nader Jafari Nodoushan about the loss of his friends Siavesh Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, who died in the Iran plane crash that claimed the lives of dozens of Canadian citizens and residents.
- We also spoke with lawyer Joe Fiorante about possible next legal steps for victims' families and the Canadian government.
The Iranian government shocked the world this week when it admitted that it was its missile that shot down Ukranian Airlines flight PS752. All 178 passengers on board, including 57 Canadians, perished in the attack. Now, as the Government of Canada evaluates what needs to be done following the Iran plane crash, the families and friends of the Canadian victims are left to wonder why their loved ones were so indiscriminately killed.
Of those passengers bound for Canada, at least six victims were Montreal residents. Two of those victims, Siavesh Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani, were on their way home from their own wedding in Iran. Their closest friend, Nader Jafari Nodoushan agreed to speak with MTL Blog.
"I was supposed to pick them up from the airport. The moment I saw the news, I told my wife, it cannot be a technical issue," says Nodoushan.
"Losing contact of the aircraft five minutes after take-off is not regular. It was clear that the aircraft was shot down as soon as I saw the news. I think it was very obvious from the first moment."
Are you satisfied with the response of Justin Trudeau & Canadian officials?
"In a tragedy like this, we don't have any satisfaction. I guess in this case, the officials did the minimum they could do and I appreciate it. But I encourage them to do more if they can or if there's a chance. That would help the families a lot, I think."
What are the next steps to try to get some resolution?
"That's a hard question to answer right now. I think we need more time to find that out. We're all in deep grief and all we can do is figure out how to process this — I haven't yet. I believe it's the same for the other families."
In my conversation with Nodoushan, he was quick to point out that he wasn't interested in discussing the political ramifications of the PS752 tragedy. Rather, he made it clear that the sudden loss of his best friends has left their families and him in utter shock.
Does someone need to be held responsible for the tragedy and if so, who?
"Absolutely. You saw what happened and the world knows now. There has to be a response to this. I would say even some kind of punishment or discipline. Someone was asking me: 'how do you think the families will be compensated?' I said, there will never be enough compensation for what happened, for what we lost."
"Whatever happens, it will never be enough. In such cases, the pain will not be relieved. The crash wasn't because it wasn't some mechanical failure or error — in those cases, justice can help a lot but in this case, the loss will not be relieved."
"I believe all the people in charge are responsible. If there's going to be any justice, it has to be applied to everybody. Although we are hearing a lot of "human error" in the media, we're not children, we can understand that it's not only one person responsible for firing a missile."
"I would love to have them back. But it'll never happen, I know that. Other than that, I don't know. It's really hard to say. People are crying for justice, but that will never get our families back," says Nodoushan.
How that justice or compensation will be given out is more complicated than you might think, however. Due to the nature of this tragedy, there are a lot of moving parts and one wrong move can have global consequences.
Jan 15 - Mahabad, W #Iran Funeral for a victim of the Ukraine Int'l Airlines flight #PS752 shot down by IRGC Famil… https://t.co/TxQj2Ye8jb— Heshmat Alavi (@Heshmat Alavi) 1579119615.0
MTL Blog reached out to Joe Fiorante of CFM Lawyers to find out more about what actions can be taken after this week's revelations.
Fiorante has over a decade of experience practicing aviation liability cases and famously acted as the lead counsel for over 200 passengers in the 2009 Air France 358 class-action lawsuit.
"Claims for compensation arising from the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 will likely be governed by international convention – either the Montreal Convention or its predecessor the Warsaw Convention. The question of which convention applies depends on a passenger's itinerary," says Fiorante.
"The possibility of a claim against Iran under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act is highly speculative at this time. What's more likely is a claim by the Government of Canada on behalf of the families. The Canadian government is in the process of establishing a multinational working group to deal with compensation, among other issues."
Fiorante pointed out that there are a few potential avenues that will likely be taken by the Canadian Government and litigators.
"For Canadians travelling on round trip tickets from Toronto to Kyiv to Tehran and back to Canada, claims for compensation could be brought under the Montreal Convention in a Canadian court," says Fiorante.
"In legal terms, the courts would have jurisdiction to take the case because Canada would be considered the country of 'destination' under the Montreal Convention."
In a nutshell, the Montreal Convention "establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo," according to the International Air Transport Association.
"Under the Montreal Convention, the carrier is liable to pay compensation to a passenger's family in the event of an 'accident' for provable damages up to an initial threshold of 128,821 Special Drawing Rights ($232,000 CAD). A missile strike would likely be considered an accident under the Convention, so the carrier could be held liable to compensate a passenger's family."
While the Canadian Government recently tasked the RCMP to help with victim identification, they have yet to establish a clear avenue for financial compensation to the families.
According to Fiorante, these amounts may vary greatly depending on how litigation could potentially proceed.
"Generally speaking, the law in each province provides for damages for the following elements: loss of financial support that the deceased family member would have provided to their dependants over the balance of their working life; loss of valuable services the deceased family member would have provided to family members; and funeral expenses," he explains.
Families of victims of #PS752 requiring consular assistance or help with visas and immigration should contact the G… https://t.co/Fl4ZMU1FiA— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦 (@François-Philippe Champagne (FPC) 🇨🇦) 1578775836.0
"Provincial law varies significantly on compensation for bereavement. The assessment of damages is highly individualistic and depends very much on each family's circumstances so it is not possible to estimate the amount of compensation that can be recovered."
It's important to note that there has so far been no contact with victims and Fiorante's law firm, CFM Lawyers.
"Any claim of negligence would be quite complicated and would almost certainly require a thorough investigation involving experts in aviation accident investigation, air safety, and risk assessment," says Fiorante.
It's a tense situation and the last thing the families of the victims need is for things to get worse.
Whether it's justice or compensation doesn't matter to those who knew the victims — for most, all they want is their loved ones back.
Special thanks to Nader Jafari Nodoushan, Joe Fiorante, and Floyd Wisner for helping bring this story together.