Speaking Notes for The Honourable Marc Garneau Minister of Transport Introduction Remarks for Working Paper to ICAO Council Canada’s WP.15029 ICAO Headquarters, Montreal, Canada


March 11, 2020

Thank you Mr. President for such a warm welcome, and for allowing me to present this Working Paper on behalf of Canada.

Thank you as well to our Co-Sponsors, Costa Rica, Finland, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan and the United States.

We also acknowledge and thank our many industry partners. The International Air Transport Association, for example, has pledged its support, for which I am very grateful.

As witnessed here today civil aviation ties the world together in a very unique way. It bridges oceans, straddles continents, and makes the world so much more accessible for us all.

When people are travelling from one part of the world to another, they should not have to worry about preventable dangers. When there are conflict zones, civilians should not be placed at risk.

Canada continues to grieve and mourn the lives of those - not only Canadians, but all of those, - who were lost on January 8 this year, when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS 752 was shot down near Tehran.

My country has been deeply affected by this tragedy. We do not want it to happen again – ever, to anyone, from any State. We do not want anyone to have to experience the sense of loss, and shock, that this terrible incident has created.

But this incident was not unique. The families and friends of the 298 people who perished when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 experienced this same sense of loss and shock.

Both these tragedies were preventable.

As a global community we cannot add any more names to the list of lives who that have been lost, of families whose lives have been turned upside down.

We must find ways – together - to better manage civil aviation in airspace above conflict zones.

Internationally recognized rules for civil aviation in airspace above conflict zones must be more broadly and consistently implemented.

Each state’s airspace is sovereign. That is not in dispute.

But, in order to prevent another tragedy, we need to deal with inconsistencies. And, in order to deal with inconsistencies in how the rules are implemented, we need a new approach.

Fortunately, a significant amount of work has already been done, much of which was done here, at ICAO.

In the wake of the MH17 incident, the Netherlands led the investigation, which resulted in 11 recommendations, regarding:

  • airspace management in conflict zones,
  • risk assessments,
  • and operator accountability.

These recommendations fed into your important work here, at ICAO to address risks in conflict zones.

However, as the PS.752 incident has tragically demonstrated, we must do more.

Canada has been the proud host state for ICAO’s headquarters since its inception, and I am here today to say that Canada will be your strong partner in this work.

We take great pride in our history of collaboration – of working with international partners, to make that world a better and safer place.

Much work has been done since 2014 – some of which resulted in Annex Amendments adopted in the last few days by this Council.

However, we believe, that more work is needed to improve aviation safety over or near conflict zones, to prevent future tragedies.

In this spirit, Canada is proposing a Strategy for Safer Skies.

This Working Paper, 15-029, is a call to action.

Safer Skies is not a slogan, but a real goal. To accomplish this goal together - we need a clear baseline of where we are today, and what remains to be done.

Simply put, it’s a request for a comprehensive gap analysis.

We therefore propose that a plan be developed, and presented at the next Council session, providing the way forward on this important initiative.

This plan will need to consider what safety and security mitigations and measures are already in place or underway, and what more remains to be done across the spectrum of ICAO instruments - Standards, Recommended Practices, and Guidance Material.  

It will be critical to consult fully with Member States in order to ensure we are building the most effective improvements, and these improvements can be implemented everywhere.

Making sure that we look at implementation considerations at the outset means that improvements will have maximum and sustainable global impact for the benefit of all countries and all passengers.   

As Canada’s Minister of Transport, I am responsible for the safety and security of Canadians, and for all people travelling within Canada.

I take that responsibility very seriously.

I am also a citizen of this planet, and I believe there are important and serious responsibilities associated with that role as well.

As a former astronaut, I am among the very fortunate people who have had the opportunity to see the planet from space.

From space, you can see our world from a completely different perspective – oceans, continents, and the cloud cover – all together, it is a magnificent mosaic.

One thing you can’t see, from that vantage point, are borders.

You can’t see boundaries between safe airspace and airspace where disputes have led to militarized conflict.

The reality is those conflict zones do exist, and the dangers they present are very real.

Those conflict zones can be an ever-present risk for civilian aircraft.

That is why we need a Safer Skies Strategy, and to reinvigorate the important work being done here, your work.


This Safer Skies Strategy is a call to action. This Working Paper is a call to action.

Canada, with its co-sponsors, is asking for all of your support and collaboration as we aim – together - to improve aviation safety and to save lives.

Thank you Mr. President.

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