Minister of Transport David Collenette
Remarks to the Standing Committee on Transport and Gov't Operations
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
October 4, 2001
I am pleased to have this opportunity today to meet with the Standing Committee
on Transport and Government Operations to discuss the challenges currently facing
the transportation sector in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th.
As we all know, the impact of the terrorist attacks in the United States is
being felt around the world. The human suffering has been enormous in the days
following the 11th. The work of this Committee is instrumental to the broader
effort of the Government of Canada, and all governments internationally, to
ensure that our citizens are protected from these horrors in the future.
There is little doubt that the most pressing issues facing the transportation
sector arising from these events are the safety and security of Canada's transportation
system, and the financial impact on Canadian air carriers. The impact is being
felt by air carriers around the globe.
I will address both of these issues in detail in my remarks, but allow me to
begin by briefly describing the actions taken by Transport Canada in response
to this tragedy.
In the moments following the attacks in New York and Washington, my department
responded immediately to protect the safety of travelers. I declared the closure
of Canadian airspace to all but military, police and humanitarian flights.
At the same time, Transport Canada, working in close cooperation with airports,
air carriers and Nav Canada, undertook the enormous task of accepting 226 international
and domestic flights that were redirected to various Canadian airports.
In addition, security measures were immediately instituted at airports across
the country, including evacuation of some areas and deployment of police and
security at key access points.
In the days following, Transport Canada undertook yet another monumental task
the re-opening of Canadian airspace, airspace which had never previously
been closed to commercial traffic.
Once again, a high degree of cooperation resulted in over 33,000 passengers
being welcomed by communities across Canada, continued over the next several
days. Between Wednesday September 12th and Friday September 14th, all of the
restrictions were gradually lifted.
It is important for Canadians to understand that as part of the reopening of
Canadian airspace, enhanced security measures were instituted.
The measures included: limiting access to restricted areas at airports; tightening
security controls and screening checkpoints; increasing police presence at major
airports; increasing passenger screening; enhancing baggage security measures;
and implementing measures to prohibit small knives and knife-like objects on
It is important to note that prior to September 11th Transport Canada regularly
reviewed the aviation security system security regulations, standards,
procedures, and equipment requirements. This is part of my department's regular,
In the face of the changing security environment Transport Canada continues
to ensure the aviation industry is held to the highest safety standards through
its heightened monitoring activities.
The Security and Emergency Preparedness Directorate of Transport Canada is responsible
for the development and implementation of programs that contribute to the security
of the national transportation system. In this regard, the department works
in cooperation with all of the relevant federal departments and agencies in
Canada and our partners in the United States, including the FAA, to prevent
incidents that threaten the security of the national transportation system.
A senior Transport Canada official has been appointed to lead a team in conjunction
with our security personnel to examine the changing environment, our current
approach to security and the department's legislative and regulatory framework.
Transport Canada has in place a rigorous and comprehensive inspection and testing
program in which full-time staff are assigned to airports across the country.
Canada's security programs meet or exceed the International Civil Aviation Organization's
security standards. Implementation of these requirements is a key element of
civil aviation security arrangements in Canada, and Canada is party to all international
aviation security conventions.
As a consequence of the ongoing review of aviation security and in response
to the realities of September 11th we have taken further action to introduce
additional security measures.
I announced that cockpit doors on all Canadian airline passenger flights
domestic and international must be locked for the full duration of the
I announced that Transport Canada has accelerated the purchase of new, advanced
explosives detection systems for use at Canadian airports.
As well, Transport Canada is engaged in the active pursuit, with the FAA, European
authorities and others, of security improvements to cockpits, including fortifying
cockpit doors. Again, this work was well underway prior to September 11th.
We are in the process of implementing further enhancements to passenger screening
and additional security measures with respect to cargo shipments.
And we will continue to implement security measures should new issues be identified.
As I've already mentioned Transport Canada works in close cooperation with the
FAA and other U.S. departments and security agencies.
We are monitoring developments in the U.S. very closely and are working with
our American colleagues to find the most appropriate methods to enhance aviation
security. It is fair to say that although our approach to security has been,
and continues to be somewhat different, both countries have well-established
But I must take this opportunity to point out that many of the security measures
announced last week by President Bush are already in place in Canada.
Security personnel at Canadian airports are subject to extensive background
and security checks. While this may be a new measure in the United States, Transport
Canada has an extensive clearance program for all airport employees who have
access to restricted areas and steps are already underway to further improve
the clearance program.
The US announced the establishment of new standards for security operations.
The Canadian government already plays a strong role in the management and oversight
of airport security services.
Our current role includes setting standards for the training and performance
of screening personnel. My department employs inspectors across the country
at all major airports to oversee and test the performance of screening procedures
and our inspection and testing activities have been increased to respond to
President Bush announced the restricted opening of cockpit doors during flights.
As I noted earlier, I announced on September 17th that cockpit doors on all
Canadian airline passenger flights both domestic and international
must be locked for the full duration of the flight. This announcement builds
upon my earlier announcement in February of this year that cockpit doors must
be locked in the event of unruly or abusive passenger behaviour that threatens
the safety of the aircraft.
In addition to these differences between the Canadian and US security regimes
there are other differences which may be more apparent to the general public.
While travelers have been able to use curbside check-in at American airports,
this practice is not allowed in Canada. Similarly, in Canadian airports only
departing travelers can access secure boarding areas. In the US departing travelers
could be accompanied to the gate by individuals not boarding the aircraft.
In the remaining minutes I would like to talk about the viability of the Canadian
airline industry overall and the impact that the events of September 11 have
had on the industry.
As members of this committee are aware, the Canadian airline industry has undergone
major changes in the last few years.
It was our job, as the elected representatives of the public, to ensure that
our constituents needs whether as airline passengers, employees, or residents
of small communities - were served. And we were able to fulfill the leadership
role demanded of us.
We brought in measures to promote competition and the industry responded
new carriers appeared and older ones grew. Bill C-26, which came into force
on July 5, 2000, made Air Canada's commitments and undertakings enforceable.
The Bill gave the Competition Bureau new powers to address predatory behaviour.
Bill C-26 also gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to deal with
price gouging by monitoring prices on monopoly routes. Other consumer complaints,
such as overbooking, bumping and lost luggage, were also addressed.
And under the Bill, the new job of Air Travel Complaints Commissioner was created,
to provide the public with a resource to resolve disputes with airlines.
Of course, Air Canada has experienced some operational difficulties in the last
year and a half resulting from the merger. I'm sure everyone in this room could
come up with a few examples. Still, there is no question that on a macro level
Air Canada has handled the merger well.
The airline had begun to turn the corner when other factors started to have
an impact. Fuel prices went up. The economy began to slow down and with it,
business travel slipped. All airlines had to bring in changes to deal with the
Clearly, the global airline industry was already facing challenges when the
horrors of September 11 forced us to close our airspace, placing enormous costs
on an already fragile industry. The losses caused by the days of inactivity
are being exacerbated by an immediate decline in travel in the days following
these events and a decrease in advance bookings. We have seen signs in the last
few days of increased bookings. Should this continue, the industry will be approaching
pre-September 11 levels soon, though transborder traffic is very slow.
Airlines everywhere are hurting. They're cutting staff, reducing capacity and
restructuring. More than 125,000 jobs have been lost in the airline industry
Another significant setback was the decision by commercial insurers that they
would no longer provide third-party war and terrorism liability coverage the
aviation sector in light of the September 11th attacks. Without it, carriers
could not fly, airports could not open, and Nav Canada could not provide its
The government stepped in, with a 90-day indemnity for third-party war and terrorism
liability for the Canadian aviation sector. We wanted to support the industry
in the short term and give them the chance to develop their own solutions for
the longer term.
Most recently, the Government of Canada announced a compensation package specifically
designed to make up for losses caused by the closure of our airspace between
September 11 and 16. This package amounts to $160 million, to be shared by all
affected Canadian carriers, to help the industry recover from the disruption
My department will continue to work with the airline industry to deal with the
after-effects of the attacks in the U.S., and the ongoing challenges facing
the industry. We will also look at long-term solutions, including the possibility
of restructuring, to enable Canada's airline industry to thrive well into the
There is much work to be done. That is why I am here with you today. This committee
provided invaluable guidance throughout the recent restructuring of Canada's
domestic airline industry. And I look forward to your continued advice and recommendations.