“When the hard times come, we’re here for each other. We’re here for each other because we all want to belong.”
The city of North Vancouver should host a permanent memorial for those killed in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, Mayor Linda Buchanan said.
The Council passed a motion by Buchanan Monday, July 18, directing staff to begin the process of a new piece of public art dedicated to the 176 people killed when the Iranian military shot down a civilian plane moments after it took off from Iran. Tehran airport on January 17. 8, 2020.
At least seven of the victims lived in North Vancouver or West Vancouver, but the loss was felt most acutely on the North Shore, where more than a third of British Columbia’s Iranian immigrant population lives. It became a popular choice for emigrants from Iran, especially after the Islamic Revolution and during the Iran-Iraq War, as the nearby mountains served as reminders of their home country. Since then, they have come “to be 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 where families and the community at large can really come to reflect and remember,” she said.
Prior to the vote, Iranian Canadians spoke to council members and urged them to move forward with the act of bridging cultures and building community.
“As a second-generation immigrant, I had personal challenges developing a sense of place. What I witnessed in the aftermath of this tragedy made me realize that a true sense of belonging comes with connecting with the people who reside or work in a place,” said Hesam Deihini. “Our friends and neighbors in North Vancouver came out in droves to serve each other in our healing journeys. This public art initiative would be a great reminder to our community that no matter our differences, when tough times come, we are there 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 bigger.
“Memory is one of the ways we, as a peaceful and tolerant society, can prevent such atrocities from happening in the future. Such a memorial would be an example of the cultural vibrancy of North Vancouver, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. [in which] live,” he said.
Buchanan’s motion passed with the solemn secondment of all members of council. Com. Tina Hu cried in the bedroom, remembering the accident and the vigil held in front of City Hall seven days later.
“Art can’t bring back the people we’ve lost. It won’t stop them from crying,” she said. “I think it’s a place where people can mourn, continue to remember.”
Com. Put on. Bell said the process of deciding what the memorial should look like should be led by local members of the Canadian Iranian community.
The motion also directs staff to seek funding from higher levels of government.