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Timeline: A look at Canada's relationship with Iran, before and after the PS752 crash

OTTAWA — It has been 66 years since Canada and Iran established diplomatic ties.

OTTAWA — It has been 66 years since Canada and Iran established diplomatic ties. Those had frayed and been mended many times before the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines flight near Tehran killed all 176 on board, including at least 55 Canadian citizens and more than 100 people with ties to Canada.

Here is a brief timeline of events in the relationship between Iran and Canada:

1955: Formal diplomatic relations established.

1956: The first Iranian mission opens in Ottawa.

1959: Canada dispatches its first head-of-mission to Tehran.

1979: During the Islamic Revolution, Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor helps shelter six staff of the U.S. Embassy over 79 days. Taylor, with help from the CIA, plans to have the six leave Iran using a cover story that they were in Iran to film a movie.

1980: The six Americans leave Iran using fake Canadian passports. Taylor leaves the country as well and the Canadian Embassy closes.

1988: Canada sends a large team of military observers as part of a United Nations mission to oversee a ceasefire between Iran and neighbouring Iraq following a war between those two nations. The Canadian Embassy reopens.

1990: Canada names an ambassador to Iran, the first since the embassy reopened two years earlier.

2012: Canada closes its embassy in Iran and expels Iranian diplomats in Canada. It severs diplomatic ties over Iran's being found to not be in compliance with a UN Security Council resolution about its nuclear program. Italy assumes the role of Canada's voice in Iran.

The Harper Conservatives list Iran as a state supporter of terrorism and list the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force, led by Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as terrorist entities.

2015: Canada is the lead sponsor of a UN resolution condemning human-rights violations in Iran.

2016: The Trudeau Liberals announce their willingness to re-engage directly with Iran and possibly restore diplomatic ties.


Jan. 3: An American drone strike kills Soleimani.

Jan. 8: Iran launches retaliatory missile strikes on two American military bases in Iraq. One is near the city of Irbil and hosts Canadian special-forces troops, along with a Canadian helicopter unit and dozens of support personnel. 

Air Canada reroutes flights out of the United Arab Emirates to avoid flying over Iraq.

Just after 6 a.m. in Tehran, Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 takes off from the Tehran airport. Approximately two minutes after take-off, Iran fires the first of two missiles at the plane. The plane crashes about five minutes after take-off, killing all 167 passengers and nine crew. 

Jan. 9: Trudeau and cabinet ministers are briefed on domestic and allied intelligence that the plane was brought down by Iranian surface-to-air missiles, and Trudeau reports the news to Canadians in a news conference. 

Iran publicly acknowledges the reports are accurate and says the missiles were fired by accident.

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne speaks with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Sarif, raises Canada's concerns about the crash and says Canada needs to be given access to Iran to participate in the investigation and aid citizens.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board in Iran invites the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to attend the accident site in Iran.

Jan. 11: Trudeau speaks to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Jan. 17: Champagne meets Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Oman to discuss the crash and the need for a transparent investigation and what Iran's obligations are to the families of the dead.

Feb. 3: Transport Minister Marc Garneau speaks to Iran's minister of roads and urban development, urging him to turn over the plane's flight recorders. It's a message Garneau and Champagne repeatedly give to Iranian authorities in the coming months but it is more than six months until the flight recorders are downloaded for analysis.

March 31: Trudeau appoints former cabinet minister Ralph Goodale as Special Advisor to the Government of Canada's response to Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash.

June 23: The Transportation Safety Board says it has been invited by Iran's Aircraft Accident Investigation Board to be present when the flight recorders are downloaded in France the third week of July.

July 20: The flight data recorders are downloaded. 

Aug. 23: Iran's investigation board issues a report on its analysis of the data recorders. Champagne and Garneau both issue a statement criticizing Iran for not providing full accounting of what happened in the moments leading up to the missiles being fired, which Iran has claimed was done by accident. Canada says it still needs to be told why the missiles were launched and why the airspace was left open to commercial aircraft.

Oct. 2: Champagne forms a forensic team, as recommended by Goodale, to collect, organize and analyze all available evidence and intelligence about the crash.

(Sources: Global Affairs Canada, The Canadian Press)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 7, 2021.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press