The City of North Vancouver should host a permanent memorial for those killed in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, Mayor Linda Buchanan says.
Council passed a motion from Buchanan Monday (July 18), directing staff to start the process for a new piece of public art dedicated to the 176 people killed when Iran’s military shot down a civilian plane moments after it took off from Tehran’s airport on Jan. 8, 2020.
At least seven of the victims lived in North Vancouver or West Vancouver, but the loss was felt acutely on the North Shore where more than one-third of the Iranian immigrant population of B.C. lives. It became a popular choice for emigrants from Iran, particularly after the Islamic Revolution and during the Iran-Iraq War, because the nearby mountains were a reminder of home. Since then, they have come to “make up the heart of our community,” Buchanan said.
Establishing a permanent memorial could harness the power of public art to help people process their trauma and heal, Buchanan’s motion states.
“A place for families and the community at large to really come and reflect and remember,” she said.
Prior to the vote, Iranian Canadians spoke to council members and urged them to go ahead with the act of bridging cultures and community building.
“As a second-generation immigrant, I had my personal struggles with developing a sense of belonging to a place. What I witnessed during the aftermath of that tragedy led me to realize that a true sense of belonging comes with the connection to people that reside or work in a place,” said Hesam Deihini. “Our friends and neighbours in North Vancouver came in masses to serve each other in our healing journeys. This public art initiative would be a great reminder to our community that, regardless of our differences, when the hard times come, we are here for each other. We are here for each other because we all want to belong.”
Ramin Joubin, a lawyer who represents some family members of crash victims, also said a memorial would be a powerful symbol of something larger.
“Remembering is one of the ways we as a peaceful, tolerant society can prevent such atrocities from happening in the future. Such a memorial would be an example of how culturally vibrant North Vancouver, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland are [in which] to live,” he said.
Buchanan’s motion passed with solemn support from every member of council. Coun. Tina Hu wept in the chamber, remembering the crash and the vigil held outside city hall seven days later.
“The art cannot bring back the people we lost. It will not stop them from grieving,” she said. “I think it's a place for people to be able to grieve, to continue to remember.”
Coun. Don. Bell said the process of deciding what the memorial should look like should be led by local members of the Iranian Canadian community.
The motion also directs staff to seek funding from senior levels of government.