The federal government is expanding its financial support for families of the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by matching up to $1.5-million in donations through the Canada Strong Campaign.
Omar Alghabra, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the fund-matching initiative is intended to support families of victims as they “navigate through the long-term impacts of these tragic losses.” Flight 752 was shot down by Iranian missiles.
The initiative is separate from the $25,000-a-victim commitment announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week, which will cover families’ immediate funeral and travel expenses. Six families have received these funds so far, and another 10 have applied, Mr. Alghabra said.
Canada Strong is a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Toronto businessman and philanthropist Mohamad Fakih. He is the president of Paramount Fine Foods and the founder of the Fakih Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to social change and empowerment.
Since its launch on Jan. 13, Canada Strong has independently raised almost $600,000.
“This is not an Iranian-Canadian community problem. This is not an Eastern or Western Canadian problem. This is not a Toronto problem. This is a national tragedy,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory at a press conference for the announcement of the fund matching. He urged Canadians to donate.
Other early efforts at fundraising have been less successful; campaigns created by Edmonton residents through the for-profit crowdfunding platform GoFundMe were temporarily pulled offline by the company because of mentions of Iran and potential issues with sanctions.
A timeline for the distribution of the Canada Strong funds has not yet been established, and there is still discussion over whether the money will go only toward the families of the 57 Canadian victims, or also toward the families of the 29 permanent residents who died in the crash.
The fund-matching announcement comes after the news that the first Canadian remains have been repatriated, according to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
A second set of remains is on its way back to Canada and 13 more are in the process of being repatriated, Mr. Alghabra said. Sixty-one victims with links to Canada – either Canadian citizens or permanent residents – have already been buried in Iran, in accordance with their families’ wishes.
The federal government says it still expects Iran to compensate the families of victims.