Foreign Minister says he doesn’t think human error caused the destruction of flight PS752

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Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he did not think Iran’s destruction of Flight PS752 could be blamed for human error.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News Network Power and politics On Tuesday, Champagne was asked if he accepted Iran’s explanation for the crash. The minister said he had not done so – but declined to say where he believed the blame should be laid.

“Well, we’ll let the process unfold,” he told host Vassy Kapelos. “What I’m saying is we saw missiles firing at the airline, and that, for me, raised all kinds of questions. ”

Champagne also expressed concern about the quality of information on the crash investigation disseminated by the regime in Tehran. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines plane on January 8 with surface-to-air missiles shortly after take off in Tehran – killing all 176 people on board, including 138 people linked in Canada.

“I will question anything they say because I take nothing at face value,” Champagne said. “I have questions, because there are too many examples that we’ve seen where… they weren’t provided. ”

Champagne said the task of getting to the bottom of what happened has been difficult because Canada lacks access to witnesses, evidence and suspects. He said he would continue to pressure Iran for answers.

WATCH | Champagne says he doesn’t believe Iran:

Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne will not say whether he believes the PS752 flight was deliberately shot down. 2:00

The minister’s comments came the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on the destruction of Flight PS752, Ralph Goodale, released a report. In it, the former federal minister said Iran should not be left in charge of the investigation because it was the actions of the Iranian military that caused the crash.

“The party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret,” Goodale wrote in the report. “It doesn’t inspire confidence or confidence. ”

“In the circumstances of this case, as is known so far, there are indications of incompetence, recklessness and blind disregard for innocent human life. ”

Champagne has also weighed on Canada’s continued struggles with China, particularly his ministry’s efforts to free Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from Chinese detention.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on December 10, 2018 – nine days after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was detained on a US extradition request over allegations that she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei control of a subsidiary accused of violating US sanctions against Iran .

The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s detention. The two men now face charges of espionage for Canada.

People hold placards calling on China to release Canadian detainees Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig during an extradition hearing for Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, to the Supreme Court of British Columbia last year. (Lindsey Wasson / Reuters)

Christopher Coons, Democratic Senator from Delaware and member of the US Committee on Foreign Relations, said Power and politics last week, he thought Canada should impose sanctions on China as a retaliatory measure for the detentions of Kovrig and Spavor.

“I would say my take on sanctions is that they have maximum impact when you go with a core group of countries,” Champagne said on Tuesday, noting that Canada has imposed sanctions against Belarus and the United States. Russia together with other countries.

“When I hear the question of sanctions, we work with the international community, we work with our partners, we have done it. And we will continue … ”

Champagne also addressed the criticism his department has received from the opposition after a report in The Globe and Mail found that global affairs officials opposed a move by General Jonathan Vance, the head of state. Major of Defense, to cancel exercises with the Chinese military in early 2019.

Global affairs officials feared the decision to cancel exercises with the Chinese armed forces could be seen as a retaliatory measure for the arrest of Kovrig and Spavor, further complicating diplomatic efforts to bring the two men home.

Champagne said China’s behavior since Kovrig and Spavor’s arrest has become more aggressive, keeping the two jailed without access to consular visits for long periods of time and accusing them of spying.

In January, China retried Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian jailed for allegedly smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamine, increasing his sentence from 15 years to death.

Since then, China has also imposed a number of trade barriers on Canadian exporters – banning imports from two canola growers, blocking shipments due to paperwork, and putting unusual barriers in the way for soybean exporters. and peas.

Champagne said that in light of China’s actions since the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor, global affairs officials would not push Vance away like they did two years ago.

“We would never consider this today, to do what has been done,” he told Kapelos. “You would never do that today. I think people understand that. So the picture you have today, you have to look with the facts and circumstances that you are facing today. ”

WATCH | Full interview with Champagne on Power and politics:

Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne sits down with Vassy Kapelos to discuss the investigation into the destruction of flight PS752 and Canada’s current approach to China. 25:47

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