January 5, 2022 by The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – An Ontario court has awarded more than $107 million to families of six victims of the Iranian military’s downing of a passenger jet two years ago.
The decision made public Monday follows a May ruling that the missile strikes amounted to an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from Iran.
In the 2021 decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found on a balance of probabilities that the missiles that shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8, 2020, were fired deliberately at a time when there was no armed conflict in the area.
As a result, he found it constituted an act of terrorism that would invalidate Iran’s immunity against civil litigation.
While the State Immunity Act protects foreign states from legal claims, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act provides an exception in cases where the losses are caused by terrorist activity.
More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash had ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
“This court well understands that damage awards are a poor substitute for the lives that were lost,” Belobaba said in the latest ruling, dated Dec. 31. “But a monetary award is the only remedy that a civil court can provide.”
Belobaba awarded $7 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages, plus interest, to the family members who went to court.
It was not immediately clear how the money might be collected from Iran.
Family members and their lawyers, Mark Arnold and Jonah Arnold, plan to discuss the court decision at a news conference Tuesday.
A statement from the lawyers Monday called the damages decision “unprecedented in Canadian law.”
In the decision, Belobaba said he was satisfied the awards are “just and appropriate and accord with the applicable law.” But he welcomed the possibility of appellate review, if only to affirm the appropriate framework for analysis of the case.
Feature image: A mourner holds a picture of a loved one during a memorial for the anniversary of flight PS752 in Edmonton on Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson