Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing anger from his own countrymen after he was photographed chatting, shaking hands, and even bowing to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, after the rogue nation shot down a commercial airplane with 57 Canadians aboard.
Iran reportedly shot down the plane in January, after launching a series of missiles at Iraqi military bases housing American troops, an effort taken in response to the United States’ killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani who, the White House said at the time, was in Iran trying to foment anti-American sentiment and organize anti-American militia operations.
Iran initially denied downing the airliner, but after United States and international intelligence organizations pinned the crash on a pair of surface-to-air missiles filed from inside Iran, the country finally issued a statement taking responsibility and blaming “human error” for the “unforgivable mistake” that killed more than 150 passengers and crew, per The Guardian.
There were 57 Canadians aboard the Ukrainian Airlines plane, headed to Kiev, Ukraine, where they planned to catch a connecting flight to Toronto, according to the BBC.
“The plane was bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and many on board had a connecting flight to Toronto, Canada’s largest city and a transit hub,” the British outlet reported, identifying why so many Canadians were killed in the attack. “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that, all told, 138 people on that flight were en route to Canada.”
“There is also no direct flight between Canada and Iran, and the Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kiev and then to Toronto is popular because it is one of the most affordable options for the journey,” the BBC added.
At the time of the attack, Trudeau insisted that he would demand “closure, accountability, transparency and justice” from the Iranians. But last week, at a conference in Munich, Germany, Trudeau seemed oddly cozy with the Iranian delegation, according to GlobalNews.ca.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing criticism over new photographs showing him shaking hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif,” the outlet reported. “The meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday quickly sparked criticism online given that Iran shot down a passenger plane last month near Tehran killing all 176 on board, including 57 Canadians. Since then, it has refused to hand over the black boxes recovered from the crash site.”
Trudeau, who has fallen under criticism for failing to treat American president Donald Trump with due respect, defended his congenial interaction with the Iranians when asked about it by reporters, even as Iranian state television reportedly played the handshake off as a sign of forgiveness.
“I made a promise to families in Canada to do everything I could to make sure that they get answers, that we have a full and complete investigation, that we understand exactly what happened,” Trudeau told reporters. “I went by to impress upon the foreign minister of Iran how important it is that we work together.”
Not everyone was impressed with Trudeau’s gesture.
“Not a good look to see PM Trudeau with smiling FM Zarif of Iran after Canadians killed at the hands of Iranian incompetence and malice on Ukrainian plane- not to mention the innocent Iranian protestors‘ killed,” one expert on Iranian-Canadian relations tweeted.
Others, including a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Canada, suggested Trudeau should have better considered the implications of being filmed palling around with Iranian officials.
“Look, I get that leaders sometimes have to shake hands with unsavoury people,” he tweeted. “But Iran just killed 63 Canadians. Maybe the PM could’ve avoided this particular photo op. Maybe a UNSC seat isn’t worth a firesale of every last thing Canadians hold dear.”
And, GlobalNews.ca reports, families of the plane crash victims are “furious.”
The Canadian delegation tried to wave off the controversy, suggesting that Trudeau was forceful in private meetings, demanding that Iran turn over the flight’s black boxes to international officials, but they offered no proof of Trudeau’s position.
Oddly enough, Trudeau did have some harsh words for at least one party he holds responsible for the airplane being shot down: Trump. Back in January, the Canadian Prime Minister pinned the incident squarely on the president’s shoulders, Business Insider reported at the time.
“If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” he said.