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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Tragedy

Honourable senators, on Saturday, March 9, I, along with a delegation from the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, which included Senators Munson and Cormier, boarded a plane in Toronto for the long flight to Addis Ababa for a bilateral visit in Ethiopia.

Knowing the route well, I knew that there is always an atmosphere of friendship and discussion on the flight. So it was this time. Many were returning to visit relatives and friends, many were exploring Africa, many were attending conferences and workshops in Nairobi and elsewhere, and many were just coming home.

When we landed, we were welcomed by our embassy as we cleared customs and baggage, but many others continued towards the transit gates. Shortly after, our ambassador to Ethiopia notified us of the fatal crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302. The crash claimed the lives of all 157 on board, including 18 Canadians, of which some 10 Canadians had transferred from our flight as well as others.

The shock, grief and helplessness gripped us and the Ethiopian nation.

The flight carried citizens from at least 35 countries.

The world reached out in solidarity with Canada, which bore a heavy loss.

The delegation held a memorial meeting for the Canadians, with all embassy staff. Handling grief and caring, the ambassador noted their duty was to the service of Canadians. The delegation was impressed with the professionalism and compassion of all of the members of the embassy staff for the task ahead with the families of those lost and their responsibilities immediately and in the months ahead.

To the families and friends of those Canadians lost, we feel a bond with you, and we will be forever changed. As you struggle to make sense and cope with your loss and grief in trying to come to terms with this tragedy, Canadians mourn with you. The road ahead will not be easy, but rest assured that our memories will not fade.

Throughout our program in Ethiopia, each encounter led to a moment of silence for those lost and shared grief by our Canadian delegation and Ethiopian counterparts. I know all senators and Canadians extend condolences, thoughts and prayers for those who lost family and friends. We are with you and will continue to be with you.