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Personal injury firm discusses lessons gleaned from government response to crash of flight PS752

Special advisor’s report discusses issues of transparency, accountability, justice

Personal injury firm discusses lessons gleaned from government response to crash of flight PS752
Paul Miller heads the firm’s mass torts practice and leads the team for the UIA Flight 752 lawsuit.

A special report released by the federal government in response to the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 could provide a roadmap to managing future international civilian aviation disasters, says Toronto-based personal injury firm.

Howie, Sacks and Henry LLP discussed in a blog post the insights that may be derived from the federal government’s response to the crash of flight PS752, as explained in Ralph Goodale’s report.

On Jan. 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed over Iran, resulting in 176 innocent victims, 138 of which had ties to Canada. In March 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Goodale as the special advisor who would address certain important matters in connection with the incident.

In December 2020, Goodale released a report titled “Flight PS752: The long road to transparency, accountability and justice” that discussed the possible best practices for Canada to adopt if a similar mass casualty incident occurs in the future and the potential steps to improve flight safety in the international context.

“It is fair to say that the tragic downing of PS752 has impacted our nation in many ways but with the lessons learned from this tragedy Mr. Goodale’s report gives us a roadmap that could help Canada’s response in managing future international civilian aviation disasters,” wrote Howie, Sacks and Henry in its blog post.

Easing the administrative burden on the victims’ grieving families, who must deal with a complicated system involving numerous federal agencies and departments, provincial and municipal governments, corporations and charitable agencies, should be prioritized in the future, Goodale suggested. He said that, in the event of another mass casualty incident, Canada should consider working together with other affected countries in its efforts to ensure that the victims’ families receive international remedies, closure and accountability.

Goodale’s report approved of the work of the International Coordination and Response Group, spearheaded by Global Affairs Canada, and of the federal government’s work in coordinating the different departments and agencies involved.

Goodale opined that the current air safety investigation rules and system cannot adequately handle an investigation if a state’s military activity caused the accident. He recommended changes to international investigation frameworks and the establishment of protocols applicable to shoot-down situations.

According to Goodale, the current investigation frameworks are lacking because the custom of assigning the lead investigator responsibilities to the country where the incident happened may result in conflicts of interest, because there is a lack of international standards or enforcement mechanisms for ensuring the timely production of black box flight recorder data and because third-party countries can only participate to a limited extent in the investigation, unlike the country where the incident occurred, the country where the aircraft was registered or the country of where the plane operators are domiciled, which receive formal investigative roles.

A possible solution for the federal government to work toward more effectively preventing mass casualty events is the Safer Skies Strategy initiative that it announced in February 2020 at the Munich Security Conference, during which Prime Minister Trudeau stated three objectives: the sharing of information among states regarding civil aviation and military activities, an increased awareness of the international standards and collective action to safeguard civil aviation around conflict zones through disallowing airlines from flying in airspaces close to foreign conflict zones.

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