Speaking notes for The Honourable Omar Alghabra Minister of Transport remarks for intervention in the ICAO Council: Fifth meeting of the 222nd session of the Council ICAO headquarters, Montreal, Canada (Via Zoom)


Thank you Mr. President,
Hello everyone.

Thank you to ICAO’s distinguished Council for this opportunity to participate virtually in your 222nd Council Session.

I will take this opportunity to also acknowledge that the Council has elected a new Secretary General for the 2021-2024 term.

So allow me to congratulate Mr. Salazar on his election and offer my commitment to support him and this council in your leadership.

And also I want to say thank you to the President of the Council for his collaboration in responding in the aftermath of the tragic shoot down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

As the host of ICAO and as a member of the Council, Canada looks forward to our continued collaboration.

This is my first speech to an international multilateral institution as the Minister of Transport. I want to take a moment to highlight that my personal and professional background strengthens my belief in the role that multinational organizations like this one play. As someone who was born in the Middle East and worked for a US based multinational corporation, I know that the best way to implement sustainable and positive change is through working together with all those who share our common commitment to safety, prosperity and inclusion. I look forward to working with all of you on advancing meaningful and important policies that the world expects of us.

I also would like to relay Minister Garneau’s greetings and good wishes.

Minister Garneau, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, will lead Canada’s continued pursuit for transparency, accountability, reparation and justice from Iran for the downing of PS752.

Let me assure you that like my predecessor, the Safer Skies Initiative is one of my top priorities.

As you know, this initiative was announced last year by Prime Minister Trudeau.

It brings together partners to establish a common set of practices to better protect passengers from the risks of flying in or near conflict zones.

I would like to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to working with ICAO to make our skies safer.

I would like to highlight to the Council recent milestones reached under the Safer Skies initiative.

The first is the establishment of the Safer Skies Consultative Committee in July 2020.

It comprises aviation experts from States and industry.

Together, they help inform, advise, advocate for, and assist the development of international initiatives.

And these initiatives will further improve aviation safety and security in or near conflict zones around the world. The Safer Skies Consultative Committee is encouraging new State representation: sharing information and promoting awareness and best practices will help prevent further loss of live.

I also wish to highlight Canada’s successful hosting of the inaugural Safer Skies Forum on December 8th and 9th.

I am grateful that many of you, including President Sciacchitano and your national authorities participated.

The Forum brought together more than 400 participants from 82 countries and 31 industry stakeholders, making it a truly global event.

Participants shared conflict zone risk expertise, and engaged in discussions on the threat environment, lessons learned, and best practices in risk mitigation.

The Forum would not have been successful without the support of many countries and industry stakeholders, or the countless participants from around the world.

This significant level of engagement underscored the international civil aviation community’s commitment to working together, to make our skies safer.

And this commitment is reinforced by the growing number of State endorsers of the Canada-led Safer Skies Commitment Statement.

The Statement calls on signatories to renew their commitment to a global approach to mitigating risk from conflict zones.

And we have already started to see member countries of the Safer Skies Consultative Committee engage in more open dialogue.

These exchanges are already leading to practical safety improvements for civil aviation operations, and I am looking forward to the realization of their longer-term impacts.

This is why I want to thank the many States that have already endorsed the Statement.

And I can't wait to hear from all States on what is needed to build consensus on our global approach.

Two months ago, Canada marked the first anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752, in which 176 innocent people perished, including 138 with ties to Canada, as well as Iranian, Ukrainian, British, Afghan, and Swedish nationals.

Some were people returning home from visiting family or people travelling to Canada to go to school. They paid the ultimate price for being nothing more than passengers and crew travelling on a civilian airliner that day.

I have spoken to many families of the victims here in Canada. They are the human faces of this tragedy.

Through these discussions, I gained a sense of their terrible loss and the grief they are experiencing to this day. A grief that will probably never leave them.

I know that people in other impacted countries have experienced similar ordeals.

We must as an international community to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like the downing of PS752 in the future.

To remember their loved ones and demonstrate support for the families of the victims of this and of other air disasters, a series of commemorative events were held. They culminated with our government designating January 8th as the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Air Disasters.

On December 15, 2020, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Special Advisor for Canada’s ongoing response to the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 tragedy, released his report.

The report included recommendations regarding conflict zones and safety investigations, echoing the lessons learned from PS752 as well as those of Air India Flight 182, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and the tragedy of MH-17.

On February 23, 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions also released a letter that pointed out areas that would benefit from more robust international standards while raising important questions.

We will keep working to get justice for the victims and their families.

We are committed to working with ICAO and Council members to implement lessons learned.

We are awaiting Iran’s Final Investigation Report where we hope to have answers to the many questions posed. My predecessor has raised these questions to this body before, and as we continue our pursuit of transparency and justice, I must do so again:

  • What was the chain of events that led to these missiles being launched at PS752 in the first place?
  • Why did the air space remain open? and
  • Why were civilian aircrafts allowed to depart from the airport prior to and after the plane was downed?

Canada will continue to be relentless in its search for answers.

Iran owes these answers to the families, to Canada and all the countries affected by this tragedy as well as the international community.

In the pursuit of transparency, we believe that in certain circumstances, the current Annex 13 investigation regime can be strengthened to ensure that investigations in downings such as PS752 are always comprehensive, independent and impartial.

And Canada would welcome further discussions at ICAO on this issue.

We have indicated repeatedly that we expect Iran to be transparent and provide answers to our many questions, questions that have been posed by Canada, by the families, and by others.

In mid-February, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), was appointed as technical adviser to Ukraine’s Accredited Representative.

Canada will thoroughly examine and assess every assertion in Iran’s final investigation report.

These are answers that not only the families of the victims deserve, but that the international community should also be concerned with as they question the very safety of international civil aviation in the region.

In closing, I would like to thank the President once again for the opportunity to speak to the ICAO Council on this important issue.

And I thank all ICAO Council Members, State and Industry Representatives, Commissioners, Panel Members, as well as the ICAO Secretariat, for your continued support to working together to make our skies safer.

Canada will continue to seek answers, justice, transparency, and accountability for victims and their families. I look forward to working with you all in this pursuit.

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