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Letter to the Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C. regarding Canada’s response to the families of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752


By email

April 7, 2020


The Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C.,
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., Minister of Justice
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, P.C., Minister of Foreign Affairs


Dear Mr. Goodale,


As the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, I am writing to you regarding Canada’s response to the families whose lives were forever changed by the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752. 

I applaud the initial response, which took into consideration the families’ needs for immediate care and for clear and timely information about the crash by creating a private information portal for families, a 24/7 Crisis and Counselling Support line, access to pro bono legal advice, and by offering funds to the families to assist with other immediate needs. I was also pleased to see the recent creation of your position as Special Advisor, to examine lessons learned from Flight PS752, while developing best practices for future responses. I believe it is important that efforts and attentions continue to be dedicated to this tragedy amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.

I hope that your mandate will include looking into the support provided to the families of the victims. We urge you to keep the needs of Canadians impacted by violence abroad in mind when developing a framework to guide Canada’s future responses to international disasters.

At the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, we know well that victims need long-term care and social, psychological, financial, and informational support for years and decades following an incident of this magnitude. It may take victims weeks, months, or years to seek help, especially if they face language or cultural barriers. We also know that when a disaster occurs overseas, Canadians face unique challenges to access support, compensation and justice due to jurisdictional issues.[1]

As victims and their families learn to adjust to a new reality, many challenges arise. We learned from the experience of 9/11 that:

  1. Clinical disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and grief-related impairments, are common and emphasize the need to promote long-term access to free counselling and psychological supports.
  2. Secondary victimization and re-traumatization can result from confusing, drawn-out or foreign legal procedures and an unresponsive bureaucracy. We have also recently seen the intimidation some families face as a barrier to justice.
  3. The lack of adequate compensation, especially where a family’s breadwinner is killed, can result in victims suffering long-term negative stresses and some never regain financial stability.

To promote healing and recovery of victims, it is important that the federal government develop a whole-of-government approach to sustain and support them. It is critical for Departments involved in response to work collaboratively, share information and break down silos so that they can truly provide victim-centred and trauma-informed responses to affected families. I would appreciate a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss your work and how my Office may be able to assist and support your efforts to develop a victim-centred response framework.

To date, Canada’s response to the tragic events of Flight PS752 is encouraging, and I hope it will support the healing and resilience of the families of victims. I look forward to your response.




Heidi Illingworth
Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime/l'Ombudsman fédérale des victimes d'actes criminels

[1] Victim services and compensation programs are provided by the provinces and territories, and therefore do not have the mandate to help Canadians victimized outside their jurisdiction.