Families of downed Flight 752 victims to receive $142 million in compensation

Ontario Superior Court Justice David Stinson has awarded more than $142 million to the families of eight people who died in the senseless tragedy over three years ago.

Families of downed Flight 752 victims to receive $142 million in compensation
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
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A supposed miscalculation by Iran's Revolutionary Guard cost Canadian families dearly in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. 

On January 8, 2020, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the plane with two surface-to-air missiles shortly after takeoff in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers, including 55 Canadian citizens, 30 permanent residents and others with ties to Canada.

Their deaths prompted relatives of the deceased to sue Iran, its supreme leader, and the IRGC for committing an act of terrorism and causing incredible suffering.

However, Iran maintains its guard unintentionally shot down Flight PS752 after 'misidentifying' it "as a hostile target." 

Canada rejected that finding and is pursuing reparations through the International Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has awarded more than $142 million to the families of eight people who died in the senseless tragedy.

In his decision, Justice David Stinson concluded the plaintiffs established the shooting down of Flight PS752 by the defendants "was an act of terrorism that constitutes 'terrorist activity.'"

"An award of punitive damages against the defendants […] is intended to punish, denounce and deter," he wrote in a default judgment.

Each family received over $16 million in punitive damages and an additional $1 million for pain and suffering. 

Last year, the Superior Court in Ontario awarded $107 million in another default judgment to the families of six other victims. That brings the total amount awarded to nearly $250 million for the families of 14 victims. 

However, the Canadian government faces an uphill battle in getting Iran to pay the settlement to the families as the regime did not defend itself in court for either decision.

"Given that Iran is suing Canada before the International Court of Justice, alleging that Canada is in breach of an international law obligation to respect a foreign state's immunity from another country's domestic courts, Iran is unlikely to have any assets in Canada for the execution of this judgment," said Joanna Harrington, a law professor at the University of Alberta.

Lawyer Mark Arnold, who represented the families involved in both civil cases, said some are pursuing another civil lawsuit that seeks to seize and sell all former Iranian diplomatic property in Canada.

However, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that families cannot seize diplomatic properties or bank accounts on Canadian soil because they are protected under international law.

"The government of Canada aggressively opposes that claim despite having severed all diplomatic ties with Iran in September 2012," said Arnold. 

"Canada continues to assert that the former diplomatic property remains diplomatic despite severing diplomatic relations and the 2012 expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Canada."

The federal government has also joined a separate lawsuit launched by Sweden, Ukraine and the U.K. at the International Court of Justice last month over Flight PS752. They seek a thorough investigation into the crash, prosecution or extradition of the offenders and compensation for the victims' families.

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