More than a thousand people attending the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame gala in Toronto on Jan. 9 bowed their heads in silence for the 57 Canadians and 119 other passengers who lost their lives when Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Iran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.
Among the Canadians killed were 10 affiliated with the University of Alberta including faculty, alumni and students — some of them postgrad stars in their fields of research.
“Words simply cannot express the loss I know we are feeling,” the university’s president and vice-chancellor David Turpin told reporters. “Everyone on campus today is mourning the incredible loss of talent. These are wonderful people who have already contributed so much to our institution and had such bright futures ahead of them.”
Iran’s military shot down the Boeing 737 about six minutes after takeoff, apparently mistaking it for a U.S. cruise missile. The error occurred hours after Iran launched missiles at American air bases in Iraq — measures taken in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s order to assassinate major general Qassem Soleimani, head of a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It’s hard to comprehend such a profoundly sad start to 2020.
Among the Iranian Canadians killed were a couple who were studying computer science and were visiting Iran to get married, and a husband and wife, both engineering professors, and their two daughters.
The tragic loss of these Canadians is heartbreaking.
Many of them came to Canada on the promise of a better life and were making important contributions to Canadian society.
The mining industry, perhaps more than any other sector in this country, knows just how important the genius and hard work of men and women coming to Canada have been in building mines and creating jobs at home and abroad.
Many of the luminaries in our business were born elsewhere and came to Canada seeking opportunities. It is too exhaustive a list to name all of them here, but many have been inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.
Among the four inductees this year, two were born in Europe. Eberhard (Ebe) Scherkus, a geologist and professional engineer who helped build Agnico Eagle Mines into the powerhouse it is today, came to Canada from Germany at the age of one and was raised in Val-d’Or, Quebec. Hans T. F. Lundberg, who was instrumental in the development of geophysical and geochemical methods in our exploration industry, was born in Sweden and came to Canada in 1926.
Peter Munk, without whom Barrick Gold would not exist today, fled Nazi death camps in Europe after Hitler invaded his native Hungary.
Thayer Lindsley, sometimes described as “the greatest mine finder of all time” and the founder of Falconbridge and many other Canadian mining companies, was born in Japan, studied civil engineering at Harvard, and moved to Canada in 1924.
Robert (Bob) Gannicott, who was born and raised in England and immigrated to Canada in 1967, was a pioneer of exploration in the Arctic and played a key role in the discovery and development of the Diavik mine in the Northwest Territories for Aber Diamond in the 1990s, while Stephen Roman, an immigrant from Slovakia, began his life in Canada as a tomato picker before building Denison Mines into a leading mining and resource company. Roman was this newspaper’s first Mining Man of the Year in 1977.
From its inception, this country has, with a few unfortunate exceptions, welcomed people from around the world and it continues to do so at the dawn of a new decade.
Thankfully it stands apart from many other countries, where a growing undercurrent of alt-right nationalism is building walls to shut out newcomers and withdrawing from important economic and political institutions that foster open boundaries and the easier movement of human talent as well as goods and services.
Long may Canada welcome people from other lands.