April 10th, 2010, 15:09
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Montreal, QC
For those, whom like me, slept in this morning and aren't up to speed:
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s Governor General were both shocked and saddened by the death of Poland’s president, his wife and several of the country’s highest ranking officials in a plane crash Saturday morning.
Lech Kaczynski died Saturday along with his wife and upwards of 100 others, including high-ranking military and civilian leaders when his presidential plane, a 26-year-old former Soviet Tupolev TU-154 crashed in western Russia while trying to land at a military base near Smolensk in thick fog.
Reports indicate the pilot tried landing three times before crashing on a fourth attempt.
“It is with shock and profound sadness that I learned this morning of the terrible tragedy that has today befallen the people of Poland. Canadians and Poles together are mourning the death of Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland, his wife Maria Kaczynski ... and many senior Polish political and military leaders,” Harper said in a statement released Saturday.
“President Lech Kaczynski was a man who stood proudly and defiantly for democracy and human rights through even the most difficult times. His sudden passing is a great loss for his country and for his many friends here in Canada, particularly within the Polish-Canadian community.”
According to the 2001 census, there are about one million Canadians who claim Polish ancestry, with the largest populations based in Toronto and its suburbs and Edmonton.
There were no survivors of the crash, according to Russian authorities, who are heading up the investigation of the crash.
Canada’s Governor General Michaelle Jean, Kaczynski’s counterpart in Canada, said she and her husband were “shocked” at the “tragic” news.
Jean called Kaczynski a “champion of freedom.
“On behalf of all Canadians, we wish to extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. Our thoughts are with Canada's Polish community, which is in shock and which we know had great affection and admiration for President Kaczynski,” Jean said in a statement.
Kaczynski, whose role as President was largely a symbolic one, was en route to ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1940 Katyn Massacre where Soviet secret police killed 22,000 Polish officers during the Second World War.
Also killed in Saturday’s crash was the Polish army’s chief of staff, the president of the national bank, the deputy foreign minister, and the head of the national security office, among others. Estimates of the total number of victims ranges from 88 to more than 120.
Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who has called for two minutes of silence nationwide Sunday at noon and a week of mourning, was scheduled to travel to Canada on April 14 and 15. It’s unknown whether the trip will go ahead. Tusk and Harper were planning to discuss the, "growing Canada-Poland relationship" with a particular focus on trade, according to Harper's office.
Kaczynski was elected president in 2005 and was the twin brother of the leader of Poland’s Official Opposition in Parliament.
A presidential election was scheduled for October of this year, but reports suggest a new earlier date must be announced in the next two weeks because of Kaczynski's death, according to the constitution.