Justin Trudeau
Justin TrudeauReuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that the 57 Canadians killed when Iran shot down Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 last week would be alive if not for recent escalations in tensions in the region.

“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 in an interview with Global News.

“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 de-escalation, moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involve further conflict and killing,” he added.

Iran initially denied having anything to do with the crash, but US officials said early on that the plane had been shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Saturday, Iran finally admitted that it had made a mistake and shot the Ukrainian plane after it flew too close to a sensitive military site and failed to respond to signals.

The crash came shortly after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that house US forces in retaliation for the US eliminating top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Trudeau has faced repeated questions over the past week on whether he believes US President Donald Trump also bears some responsibility for the incident due to the fact that it came just hours after the missile strikes by Iran.

In Monday’s interview, Trudeau said he spoke with Trump about the incident.

“I have spoken to him and I have talked about the need to de-escalate tensions,” he said. “I’ve talked about the tremendous grief and loss that Canadians are feeling, and the need for clear answers on how this happened and how we’re going to make sure it never happens again.”

He added, however, the focus for him and the Canadian government right now remains on the victims, even as it could be “weeks, perhaps even months” before the victims are repatriated for burial.

“The grief they’re going through is not to be consoled right now. They want answers, they’ve expressed anger and outrage and also immeasurable pain,” he told Global News.

“I am hurt like all Canadians. I am angry like all Canadians. But unlike many people I have a job to do that will be able to help these families directly. Getting answers for them is my entire focus right now.”

His comments come ahead of a meeting being hosted by Canada on Thursday in London, in which members of the International Coordination and Response Group are set to lay out their next steps for pushing for credible answers and access to black box data.

Trudeau said the goal of the meeting will be looking at ways to demand justice.

“I think full admission, acknowledgment of responsibility and some form of compensation is going to have to come,” he said.