At least 19 universities in six provinces lost researchers, professors and students in the disaster. Their expertise ranged across diverse fields, from engineering to medicine, and business to biology.
CBC News spoke to colleagues of three of those individuals about what they were like, and the incredible contributions they were making through their work.
Forough Khadem’s research had immense promise.
The 36-year-old moved from Tehran to Winnipeg in 2010 to pursue a PhD in immunology at the University of Manitoba, after a chance encounter with a Canadian researcher visiting Iran.
Jude Uzonna, a professor of immunology and medical microbiology, met Khadem 10 years ago at a conference in Tehran. He says he was so impressed by her energy and intelligence, he offered her the chance to study in Winnipeg.
Khadem’s background was in plant biotechnology, but working in a completely different field didn’t seem to faze her. She jumped at the opportunity.
“She excelled,” said Uzonna, who became her PhD adviser. “She was a very bright student.”
Khadem’s PhD focused on visceral leishmaniasis — a deadly parasitic disease that affects people in nearly 100 countries. She discovered where and how the parasite hides in the body, including inside liver cells.
This research could be life saving, according to Uzonna.
“The type of disease she worked on is lethal. It’s fatal if not treated,” said Uzonna. “She was able to find this pathway, and that if you block this pathway and target these particular cells, you can cure it.”
Khadem’s findings were featured on the cover of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases’ Hepatology journal in 2016.
“How many people get their work on the cover of the journal?” said Uzonna. “I’ve trained seven or eight PhD students — only her work has made it onto the cover of a journal.”
After graduating, Khadem worked at MITACS, a Canada-wide non-profit that makes connections between industry and researchers. But her link to the University of Manitoba stayed strong, and on Jan. 17 a vigil for Khadem was held on campus.
“She loved the university and she loved science,” said Saeid Ghavami, her friend and colleague. “She was so connected to her professional life that she always felt that university was her second home.”
Uzonna says Forough’s work lays the foundation for another person to continue with it. “When that person moves forward, she’s always going to get the credit.”
“That’s the beauty of science,” he said. “She lives on that way.”
Jude Uzonna, professor of immunology and medical microbiology and Associate Dean of Research at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine Research, was Forough Khadem’s PhD advisor and calls her ‘a champion of humanity.’ 0:32
Mohammad Asadi Lari
Mohammad Asadi Lari was in his second year of an eight-year MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto when he was killed on Jan. 8.
Fewer than 10 students are accepted into the program each year.
“You can imagine, in a program where we’re training the next generation of physician scientists that are going to make new discoveries and change health care, there are lots of amazing students,” said Dr. Nicola Jones, the program’s director.
“Within that group, Mohammad was exceptional. He really stood out.”
At 23, Asadi Lari had already accomplished so much.
He started a STEM fellowship five years ago when he was an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia. The program, which provides youth with tools and skills to help them excel in STEM fields, now has 20 university branches and 15 high school chapters in eight provinces.
He gave a TedX Talk in 2019, urging young people to find what they’re passionate about and take action on it.
“He had a way of connecting people and making other people feel great,” said Dr. Vipan Nikore, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto.
At a Toronto vigil for victims of the crash, deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland remembered meeting Mohammad just a few months earlier.
“He cornered me,” recalled Freeland, “and said ‘Minister, the government has to do more about this! And I need to meet with you and talk to you about it.'”
Asadi Lari was to decide on his PhD research focus the week after he died. For his friends, teachers and mentors, the loss of his enormous potential in their community is immeasurable.
“People like Mohammad don’t come around that often. And to me, there’s no question he was going to change the world,” said Dr. Nikore.
Dr. Vipan Nikor, an internal medicine physician and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, was a mentor to Mohammad Asadi Lari. Nikor remembers him as someone who was ‘going to have such an impact on the world.’ 0:40
Zahra Naghibi, a thermodynamicist, was just about to launch two new projects. She was in her third year of a PhD at the University of Windsor when she died.
Naghibi’s work in the university’s turbulence and energy lab focused on energy consumption in greenhouses. She had just completed the delicate and painstaking task of creating a model of a micro-climate.
“Zahra’s model could tell you minute to minute what the energy consumption would be in a greenhouse at any time,” said her PhD supervisor, Rupp Carriveau.
“She could also show what was going to happen in the future, which enables you to do things like design a better or more innovative energy supply system.”
Carriveau said it was Naghibi’s work that facilitated the acquisition of the two large projects for the university. With Naghibi gone, the turbulence and energy lab faces the challenge of carrying on and developing them without her.
“We’ll never be the same. The lab won’t be the same,” said Carriveau. “The research won’t be the same.”
Naghibi lived in Windsor, Ont., with her husband, Mohammad Abaspour Ghadi, who also died in the crash.
Carriveau said Naghibi was being courted for various positions in the agriculture and energy industries, and would have had her pick of opportunities when she graduated a year from now.
“As a country we lost so much, when you consider what one life can do,” said Carriveau.
“I think we lost a lot as a nation. I can’t imagine the collective impact.”
Rupp Carriveau, professor of civil and environmental engineering at The University of Windsor, was Zahra Naghibi’s PhD advisor. Carriveau remembers Naghibi as, ‘such an enormous force’ in the lab. 0:36
Canada’s military forces are “ready” to meet their commitments should Russia’s war in Ukraine spread to NATO countries, but it would be a “challenge” to launch a larger scale operation in the long term, with ongoing personnel and equipment shortages, according to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre.
Eyre told Joyce Napier on CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday that while the forces in Europe are “ready for the tactical mission they’ve been assigned,” he has larger concerns about strategic readiness. He said there’s a lack of people and equipment, and further concern around the ability to sustain a larger scale mission in the longer term.
The Canadian Armed Forces are still struggling to retain staff, with nearly 10,000 fewer trained personnel than they’d need to be at full force, and equipment stocks below what they require.
“We’ve got challenges in all of those,” Eyre said, adding the numbers reflect what’s been “let slip over decades, as we’ve focused on the more immediate (needs).”
Eyre said Canada’s military would be “hard pressed” to launch another large-scale operation like it had in Afghanistan, as an example, without having to redistribute its resources around the globe, as threats evolve.
“The military that we have now is going to be increasingly called upon to support Canada and to support Canadian interests, to support our allies overseas, but as well at home,” Eyre said, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change impacting the landscape in the Arctic, and an increase in digital and cybersecurity threats.
“It’s always a case of prioritization and balancing our deployments around the globe, not just with what, but when, and with who … and getting that balance right is something that that we’re working on,” he said. “Could we use more? Yeah, absolutely. But we operate with what we have.”
“We prioritize and balance based on what our allies need, and what the demand signals, just to make sure that we achieve the strategic effect the government wants us to achieve,” he also said.
Meanwhile Defence Minister Anita Anand said on CTV’s Question Period last week that Canada should “be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” and balance its NATO commitments with securing the Arctic and promoting peace in the Indo-Pacific.
Eyre said his number one priority is getting Canada’s armed forces up to full strength, with an attrition rate of 9.3 per cent between both regular and reserve forces, up from 6.9 per cent last year. The Canadian Armed Forces Retention Strategy was released just last month.
“We are facing the same challenge that every other industry out there is facing in terms of a really tight labor market,” Eyre said. “Every other military in the West is facing the same challenge.”
He explained the organization is working on streamlining its recruitment process, among other changes, to meet the increasing need, with the goal to get numbers up “as quickly as possible.”
“Ideally, would have been yesterday,” he said. “We’re looking at where we can accelerate the recruiting, the training, and optimizing our training pipeline.”
Soccer wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sure, we all had soccer balls. And we played a lot of what should be more accurately called, Kick and Run. But I – and all my friends – did not really know the rules, the teams or the players. We might’ve heard of Pelé, but not more than that.
We followed hockey, baseball, football (CFL and NFL) and basketball, in that order. I did occasionally watch soccer on TV, but that was because we didn’t have a lot of channels and the soothing English accents often lulled me to sleep.
Things are much different now. My 13-year-old son is a massive soccer fan. He plays on a team three or four times a week. His schoolmates include a lot of second-generation Canadians, whose parents came from soccer-obsessed nations. He watches Premier League and Championship League matches. He’s watches La Liga and Bundesliga. He watches World Cup qualifiers and could tell me the backstory on most of the players. In fact, he watches classic games on YouTube and plays FIFA22 on his PS4 and as a result, knows more about Pelé than I ever did. But, because of him, I now watch enough football to know a game is a match, a goalie is a keeper and I know which plays end up in corner kicks or throw-ins.
I once asked him, “How well do you know the Germany national team?” and he said, “Not very well.” He then proceeded to name seven of their 11 starters. It’s a different world.
I still know almost nothing compared to the other soccer dads, but like millions of Canadians, I watched Canada’s qualifying matches and I know we have a great team, with some stellar players who are worth watching. The qualifying matches regularly beat both hockey games and CFL football when it comes to viewership.
But we should care about more than just the matches themselves. The World Cup is one of the biggest and most lucrative sports spectacles on Earth. This will be the first one hosted in the Middle East. And although Qatar may look shiny and new on TV, it’s mired in what many Western nations believe to be medieval and backwards policies on working conditions, LGBTQ2S+ and women’s rights.
Finding people to talk about it in Qatar is NOT easy. One of W5’s goals this week was to talk to migrant workers to describe how they were treated, their living conditions and their labour rights. Most were too afraid to talk to us.
And to confound things, there have been many stories of journalists being detained or arrested for reporting on migrant workers. Last week, a Danish reporter was live on TV from Qatar and when asked what things were like there, he directed his camera operator to pan left – revealing security officials in golf carts, who immediately tried to stop the live hit. The next day Qatari officials apologized, but the message was clear: we can stop you from reporting when we want. It’s a fascinating video that’s been viewed millions of times around the globe.
The Qatari government denies they’ve put any restrictions on media. In a tweet, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy says “several regional and international media outlets are based in Qatar, and thousands of journalists report from Qatar freely without interference each year.”
Not everyone is convinced. Qatar ranks 118 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Press Freedom index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Freedom House, which is a U.S.-based freedom watchdog, gives Qatar a 25 out of 100 score on Global Freedom, which includes freedom of expression. (Canada ranks 98 and the US ranks 83).
A Reuters Institute column from last week on press freedom in Qatar suggests authorities obscure press freedom laws, by hiding behind trespassing laws.
“One of the most common risks when doing journalistic work in Qatar is to be accused of trespassing. This is what Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of Norwegian state broadcaster NRK were accused of when they were arrested by officers of Qatar’s Criminal Investigations Department in November 2021, while covering World Cup preparations. The journalists were held for over 30 hours before being released without charge. They deny they were filming without permission,” says the article.
A little insider info: I have personally written, “we don’t want you to get arrested, but…” at least twice in correspondence with our team in Qatar. I’ve never encouraged anyone to break the law of course, but sometimes doing our jobs leads police or security into thinking they have a duty (or at least a right) to stop you.
Where do we get our story ideas? You. Emails, DMs, letters and tweets get to us and we read them all. Share your story with us and you can help us make a difference at W5@bellmedia.ca.
OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.
Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.
“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.
“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”
On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.
Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.
The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.
“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage.
She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.
But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do.
“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.
Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.
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