Speaking notes for the Minister of Transport,The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Safer skies forum opening remarks

Speaking notes for the Minister of Transport,The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Safer skies forum opening remarks

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Good morning, Bonjour.

I want to begin by acknowledging that I’m joining you from Ottawa, Canada, which is situated on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe Peoples.

I offer my deepest condolences to all affected by the recent loss of China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735.

Let me welcome everyone to the second annual Safer Skies Forum.

Je suis heureux de tous vous accueillir au deuxième forum annuel sur la sécurité aérienne.

The last month has shown us that our world order can be shaken.

Today, we must stand up and show that our commitment to peace will not be broken.

I’d like to thank those of you representing States, international organizations, and the civil aviation industry for joining us.

I want to acknowledge the other Ministers of Transport and Infrastructure who are with us today, as well as Ambassadors, the President of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council and the ICAO Secretary General and Council members.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, we must acknowledge Russia’s unjustifiable, unprovoked, and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

I especially want to thank all representatives from Ukraine who are attending the Forum.

Canada stands with you. In this forum and beyond, we will continue supporting the Ukrainian people in the face of this illegal war.

I also wish to acknowledge the swift actions of dozens of states who closed their airspace to Russia.

Aggression will not be tolerated, and there are consequences.

Remarks from the Ukrainian Chargé d’affaires will be shared at the end of this session. I want to thank him for sharing these remarks with us today.

Prenons un moment pour nous rappeler pourquoi nous sommes ici.

Aviation Disasters

When Flights MH17 and PS752 were shot down, there was a ripple effect of shared grief, suffering and sorrow.

Canadians continue to feel the pain of the loss of the 176 people who were killed on Flight PS752. Let us not forget that PS752 was brutally shot down by the Iranian regime, whose neglect for human life directly led to innocent men, women, and children being killed.

Fifty-five of whom were Canadian citizens, 30 were permanent residents and many others had ties to Canada.

I have personally met with many of the families of the victims of Flight PS752. They look to us to provide them answers, and to ensure that no other family has to experience such grief.

I wish to express our continued commitment to working with our international partners towards obtaining transparency, accountability, and justice for them.

Our response has not been perfect. But we will never stop pushing towards these goals.

When states won’t keep their skies safe, the rest of the world must step up.

The civil aviation community has a responsibility to honour the people who lost their lives to these senseless tragedies by making our skies safer, and ensuring such disasters never happen again.

Nous devons faire en sorte que de telles tragédies ne se reproduisent plus.

And I also believe that ICAO’s air accident investigation framework should be improved.

Particularly, to better address scenarios where the State of Occurrence participated in or caused the downing of a civilian aircraft.

We will continue to work with key international partners and within ICAO to prioritize the work undertaken by technical experts to review Annex 13.

This will help ensure that future air accident investigations are credible and transparent, including in conflict-of-interest situations.

As we advance this work, it’s important to properly remember those affected.

That’s why ICAO, along with the Air Crash Victims’ Families’ Federation International, recently declared February 20 as the International Day Commemorating Air Crash Victims and Their Families.

I want to highlight that the Federation has produced a video outlining their advocacy for policies and practices needed to support aircraft accident victims and their families.

Over the next couple of days, please honour them by taking a moment to watch the video on our virtual platform.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Canada and much of the international community is appalled by Russia’s unjustifiable and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

This hostile act is a blatant violation of international law. Canada strongly condemns this invasion.

Le Canada condamne fermement l’invasion de l’Ukraine par la Russie.

The war in Ukraine is a shocking, real-time example of why the Safer Skies Initiative is so important.

In this case, the global community has shown that it can come together to mitigate the risks associated with these rising tensions.

In the weeks leading up to the invasion, members of the Safer Skies Consultative Committee, or SSCC, worked with the Expert Group on Risk Information Overflying Conflict Zones.

They effectively shared key information on the deteriorating security situation, and discussed ways to align their strategies as much as possible.

In response, Canada’s Conflict Zone Information Office took immediate action to issue airspace notifications to prohibit Canadian air operators from entering airspace over and near the conflict zone.

Although this tragic and unacceptable situation is still unfolding, we have already seen how global co-operation can result in preventing situations like MH17 and PS752 from happening again.

We must continue this work to further mitigate the risks of flights in conflict zones.

Achievements and progress

The Safer Skies Initiative was built on the foundation of the work led by the Netherlands after the downing of Flight MH17.

And let me take a moment to announce, that we are co-hosting the next Safer Skies Forum with the Netherlands.

The Initiative emerged from the strong belief that we must do more to protect civilians from the risks of flying over or near conflict zones.

As we were setting up the domestic Conflict Zone Information Office as part of this Initiative last year, we benefited greatly from the experience and knowledge of our partners in the United States, France, and Germany.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their guidance.

This Office has improved our ability to monitor foreign conflict zones and quickly warn air operators of new or emerging risks.

And, in addition to notifications for the zone near Ukrainian airspace, the Office has also issued airspace notifications for several conflict zones around the world.

Canada now continuously monitors foreign air space and is working with partners to align our approaches to risk mitigation.

Canada is also chairing the SSCC, which brings together experts from States, industry, and international organizations to improve the safety and security of worldwide air travel.

In 2020, we, alongside the SSCC, created this Forum to build stronger collaboration and dialogue among the civil aviation community.

Throughout this Forum, the SSCC will present some important work from the past year, including:

  • A platform for rapidly sharing emerging conflict zone threat information with pilots;
  • An inventory of risk-mitigation strategies, that States, industry, and organizations can use to improve their positions on risk management for conflict zones; and
  • A list of principles to help guide States when deciding whether to close their airspace when conflict arises.

These are available for you to access on our virtual platform.

As we continue to delve into these issues and build strong international cooperation, a proposal for the SSCC to collaborate with the European Civil Aviation Conference to draft a working paper is being explored.

The intent will be to submit the working paper at the upcoming ICAO Assembly this Fall.

The discussions taking place over the next two days will be reflected in the working paper as we consolidate the draft, and I urge you to consider endorsing it once it’s finalized ahead of the next ICAO Assembly.

At the first Forum, my predecessor invited all participants to endorse a Safer Skies Commitment Statement outlining the Initiative’s core principles.

I invite all States, international organizations and industry representatives who have not already signed the Statement to do so.

This Statement is also available for you to access on the Forum’s virtual platform.

Safer Skies Forum

Aviation should be experienced with a sense of safety.

L’aviation devrait inspirer un sentiment de sécurité.

Over the next two days, we’ll share ideas, information, and best practices to strengthen the global response to risks that conflict zones pose to travellers and civil aviation.

As we learn and elaborate on strategies that will protect people and save lives, I believe the work we do together will be critical.

Conclusion

Canada is committed to the Safer Skies Initiative, and to continue collaborating with ICAO and the international civil aviation community to advance this important work.

I would like to extend special thanks to ICAO and SSCC members for their work on the Safer Skies Initiative. Thanks to the keynote speakers, and panelists. I look forward to hearing your valuable input.

The last few years have shown that our skies are not as safe as they need to be. Innocent people deserve safety when flying. That is our responsibility. And that is our job here today.

I will now pass it back to Kevin Brosseau, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Transport Canada.

Thank you. Merci.

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