FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 file photo debris at the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Two U.S. officials said Thursday that it was “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner late Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board. President Donald Trump is suggesting he believes Iran was responsible. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

RCMP creating DNA profiles to help identify Canadians killed in Iran plane crash

Mounties coordinating the gathering of physical evidence at the crash site

Canada’s national police force is taking part in the massive effort to identify dozens of Canadians killed in last week’s plane crash in Iran.

While no RCMP officers are currently on the ground in Tehran, where the Ukrainian passenger jet was shot down by the Iranian military, a spokeswoman said the force is co-ordinating the crucial work of gathering physical material that will eventually be used to identify the remains of the 57 Canadian victims.

“On-site disaster victim identification assistance from Canada has not been requested at this time,” Catherine Fortin said in a statement. “The RCMP is currently creating DNA profiles here in Canada to assist Iran with Canadian victim identification.”

WATCH: Sadness, silence grip Canada’s universities in honour of Iran plane crash victims

Much of that work, Fortin said, will involve gathering samples from family members of the plane crash victims. Of the 176 people killed in the crash, federal officials have said 138 were bound for Canada.

The Canadian Press has independently confirmed at least 89 victims with ties to Canada, many of them students and professors returning after spending the December break visiting relatives in Iran.

Fortin said the RCMP, which operates the Ottawa bureau of the global law enforcement organization Interpol, began supporting victim identification efforts at the request of the equivalent office in Tehran.

She said the RCMP will work with local police forces to contact relatives of Canadian plane crash victims.

“Some family members may therefore be asked to provide biological samples to assist with the identification of the victims,” Fortin said, adding those samples would then be used to generate a DNA profile that would later help identify remains.

Dr. David Sweet, professor of dentistry at the University of British Columbia and Interpol’s former chief scientific officer for disaster victim identification, said such material forms a vital part of all efforts to put names to those killed in large-scale tragedies.

He said the profiles generated in Canada will be compared to fragments of teeth, jaw bones and other tissues most likely to have survived the crash, which took place on Jan. 8 when the plane was hit by at least one surface-to-air missile fired by the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

But Sweet said officials around the world may face challenges in their efforts to identify the dead due to conditions on the ground in Iran.

“The home country has not requested assistance initially and may not have had an established response plan or a team that could respond quickly with all of the needed infrastructure and … expertise to do things effectively,” he said.

Iran is not alone in this regard, Sweet said, noting that while Canada has emerged as a global leader in the field of victim identification, the international community at large is not well-equipped to respond to such situations.

“There’s training and capacity-building that’s necessary over a period of time, and nobody worries about that,” he said. “It’s death, and you don’t want to turn your mind to that sort of thing under normal circumstances, and then all of a sudden when this happens and you realize that you really need someone, where do you find them?”

Efforts to identify victims will be unfolding against an increasingly tense political backdrop.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne was in London on Thursday attending an international meeting that Canada hopes will lead to justice and financial compensation for the crash victims’ families.

The meeting at the Canadian High Commission included representatives of Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and Britain, and was billed by Ottawa as a step towards “closure, accountability, transparency and justice — including compensation.”

Canada, which does not have an embassy in Iran, has demanded official status in that country’s investigation of the crash.

At a Wednesday news conference, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said two Canadian investigators are in Iran as part of an international team and have been getting good co-operation, but he wants their participation in the probe formalized.

Meanwhile, Canada has also voiced support for a decision by European leaders to trigger a section of their 2015 nuclear agreement that could bring back European sanctions against Iran. That move resulted in Iran’s president issuing threats aimed at European soldiers in the Middle East.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Flight 752 crash in Iran

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Minor Football kicks off 2020 preparations

Training started Tuesday, Aug. 4, under strict COVID protocols at Greater Vernon Athletic Park

Tours connect North Okanagan to history

Museum makes August all about field trips

Community Champion: Jake and Mary Spoor feel blessed to give back to Vernon

As immigrants themselves, Mary and Jake understand how isolating it can feel in a new country

Get Outdoors!: Rattlesnakes Are Fascinating! Part 2

Columnist Roseanne Van Ee provides information about rattlesnakes in the North Okanagan

Vernon’s pump prices second lowest in B.C.

Gasoline prices range from 102.9-114.9 cents per litre in North Okanagan city

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

Cyclist in hospital after being hit by load of lumber hanging from truck on B.C. highway

A man is in hospital with broken ribs, punctured lung and a broken clavicle and scapula

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Passengers escape unharmed from destructive houseboat fire in Shuswap

Cause of blaze on Mara Lake under investigation, flames erupt at 2 a.m. Aug. 4

Alberta vehicles allegedly damaged in Summerland

Lug nuts loosened, windows smashed in several instances in Okanagan community

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Former Kelowna resident makes fundraising goal for cancer fertility treatments

Rebecca Hamilton recieved a boost in a battle against cancer - $25,000 for post chemo treatments

Racism in B.C. healthcare: Deadline for First Nations survey coming up on Aug. 6

Survey comes after hospital staff allegedly played a blood alcohol guessing game

Most Read