Ontario Premier Doug Ford has waded into international relations, calling for the ouster of the “brutal” government in Iran as he announced $10,000 one-time scholarships in memory of the 57 Canadian victims in last week’s plane crash in Iran.
“There’s one person shot down that plane. That was the Iranian regime. The ruthless evil Iranian regime that needs to be changed,” Ford told reporters Thursday.
“I want to send a message: I support the protesters that are out there. We believe in democracy here in Canada and we’d love to see nothing less than democracy in Iran.”
The comments and the scholarship came after Ford, who also spoke at a University of Toronto memorial service for the crash victims, met Tuesday with families who lost spouses, children and other loved ones in the Jan. 8 crash of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 after it was hit by at least one Iranian surface-to-air missile.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking…the pain that they’re going through,” said the premier, whose own mother died a week ago Sunday after a battle with cancer. “People are hurting. The Iranian community are hurting. And I just want to tell them that the rest of Ontario is hurting along with them.”
Thirty-four of the 57 Canadian victims of the crash were academics, teaching, studying or engaged in research at universities across the country.
“There were PhD candidates, professors, researchers, doctors, like the PhD in medical biotech who was researching a new drug therapy for breast cancer. These are the incredible stories of the people that were on Flight 752. These were people committed to their education and working hard to help our society,” Ford said.
“We have to make sure that we carry on their legacy and memory,” he added, flanked by two Progressive Conservative MPPs of Iranian descent, Goldie Ghamari (Carleton) and Michael Parsa (Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill) at a news conference outside the premier’s office.
Both have been helping families deal with the aftermath of the airliner tragedy.
The 57 scholarships will start in fall 2020, but Ford said they could be extended if donors step up.
“Hopefully we’ll have private sector partners to help out the following years.”
Details of the scholarships to Ontario universities will be determined with input from families of the crash victims but the financial aid will be “open to everyone,” Ford said.
The Ontario government is also working with federal officials to connect families of crash victims with mental health services, community organizations and offering assistance in getting important documents such as death certificates.
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