Published: 2020-01-13 22:19:59 BdST
"It is an unspeakable loss," said Neda Maghbouleh, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto who studies Iranian migration through the United States and Canada. Four University of Toronto students were killed in the crash.
"The people we lost in the plane truly represented the smartest young researchers in the entire world," Maghbouleh said.
Mourners attend a vigil at University of Toronto student housing for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet which crashed in Iran, in a still image from video in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2020. Reuters
Many Iranians pursued graduate studies in Canada after the United States' policy toward Iran hardened in 2017.
The Ukrainian Airlines plane, which was headed to Toronto via Kiev, crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. The US government believes Iran accidentally shot down the airliner, US officials said on Thursday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 passengers of the 176 on board the doomed flight were traveling to Canada, of whom 63 were Canadian citizens.
Edmonton's University of Alberta lost 10 faculty, postgraduate students and alumni, the school's president said. Other victims were linked to universities in Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
Photographs of student victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet which crashed in Iran are seen during a vigil at University of Toronto student housing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2020. Reuters
"I was the graduate program director in our department for seven years and I can easily say about half of our grad students are from Iran," Dolatabadi said from Montreal.
Among the dead were mentors and leaders in their fields, students and school administrators said. University of Alberta professor Mojgan Daneshmand was a Canada Research Chair in radio frequency microsystems. Others were researchers on hybrid electric vehicles, mechanical and computer engineering, and indigenous studies.
Newlyweds Arash Pourzarabi, 26, and Pouneh Gorji, 25, were graduate students in computer science at the University of Alberta, and had gone to Iran for their wedding. Pourzarabi was a silver medalist in the National Olympiad in Informatics and the pair had been undergraduates in the prestigious Sharif University engineering program.
"There's an overwhelming sense of sadness on campuses right across the country from coast to coast," said Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, an association representing 95 universities, in Ottawa. "There will be empty chairs."