UAE Canada relations and aircraft landing rights dispute
UAE Canada relations and dispute over airline landing rights for Emirates and Etihad, Camp Mirage, UAE entry visa and permits for Canadians. Started in October 2010 but simmering in months and years previously.
Canadians can get a free visa on arrival in the UAE again - 11 June 2013
As of 01 June 2013 the visa application and fees requirement for Canadian citizens was removed according to information on the website of the UAE Embassy in Canada, so a free visa on arrival in the UAE for Canadians is available again (checked 11 June 2013, same day various news reports carried a story, although AFP reported on 28 May 2013 that the requirement would be lifted from 01 June 2013). No information seen about additional landing rights in Canada for Emirates or Etihad Airways - according to the Gulf News on 29 May 2013, both airlines are still only allowed 3 flights per week to Toronto.
Canada UAE airline services dispute October 2010
- Canada is serviced by Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways as of October 2010 but with only 6 flights per week between the two carriers (to Toronto), who have been trying to obtain rights to increase the frequency and number of destinations (including Vancouver and Montreal) against strong objections by the Canadian airline Air Canada, and Transport Canada, the government authority.
- Things started turning sour in October 2010 when the UAE Ambassador to Canada, Mohammed Abdullah Al Ghafli, made some comments about the denial of increased access by Canadian air transport authorities - "The UAE is disappointed that despite intensive negotiations over the last five years the UAE and Canada have been unable to arrive at an agreement on expanding the number of flights between the two countries. It is unfortunate that this process has been so protracted and frustrating. The UAE entered negotiations in good faith on the understanding that a solution would be reached and that constructive ideas would be brought to the negotiating table. The fact that this has not come about undoubtedly affects the bilateral relationship." (WAM 10 October 2010)
- Then there were reports that said that the UAE had instructed Canadian troops to leave Camp Mirage, a military base in Dubai used by the Canadians (also reportedly used by Australian, Dutch, and NZ troops) to support their mission in Afghanistan (a "secret" base according to many reports but hardly secret now, apparently at Al Minhad Air Base), as a retaliatory measure. However, the UAE said the Canadians were leaving simply because the agreement to use the base had expired and it was just a coincidence that it happened to be at the same time as the discussion over increased flights to Canada had intensified.
- Apparently Camp Mirage was established in about 2000 or 2001. The agreement between UAE and Canada for use of the base expired in June 2010 but was extended to September 2010 as a show of goodwill to help encourage agreement on commercial flights between UAE and Canada.
- On 11 October 2010, Postmedia News of Canada reported that the UAE instructed a Canadian military transport plane to stay out of UAE airspace - A quarrel over landing rights in Canada for the UAE's two national carriers and the use of a logistics base in Dubai that supports Canadian combat operations in landlocked Afghanistan escalated sharply when a C-17 jumbo transport carrying Defence Minister Peter MacKay, General Walter Natynczyk and Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn was denied the right to land and ordered to stay clear of UAE airspace.
- The same report quoted Mr MacKay as saying "We will abide by the wishes of the Emirates and that is that. We will be leaving the base," referring to Camp Mirage. Various reports later suggested the cost of relocation to a new base would cost Canada $300 million (over AED 1 billion).
- On 12 October 2010, Postmedia news reported that Canadian military flights were again permitted to use UAE airspace, but they had a bit of a dig at Dubai, saying Aside from the Lilliputian aspects of this awkward tale, with a waterless, fabulously wealthy desert sheikdom the size of Lake Superior going toe-to-toe against a G-7 country that is the second largest nation on Earth, there will be other serious consequences if this quarrel is not resolved amicably.
- Other dramatic comments in the same report said that European airlines were worried that Gulf carriers could destroy their businesses, and that in Australia and New Zealand they were regarded as potential Death Stars. Death Stars? Good grief Charlie Brown. Or Luke Skywalker. Or Matthew Fisher who actually authored the report.
- On 09 November 2010, various news sources pointed out that the website of the UAE Embassy in Canada said that UAE visas for Canadians would be required from January 2011.
- Some support from Canada for the UAE was reported by AFP on 16 November 2010 (Canadian defence chief backed UAE in airline spat). Apparently a blogger,
Daniel Proussalidis, had overheard the Canadian Defense Minister,
Peter MacKay, say "Canada could have continued to use a military base in the UAE for free... if only it had granted those slots," to Conservative Senator Michael Meighen. Which sounds more like stating the obvious rather than supporting the UAE.
- But on 19 November 2010, it was reported that Government House Leader (Canada) John Baird said "It would have cost Canada literally tens of thousands of jobs and was not in Canadian's best interest," about the additional landing rights in Canada for EK and EY. One wonders why Mr Baird doesn't recommend that all foreign carriers be denied access to Canada, after all, his logic would suggest that should create many more jobs for Canadians. Maybe even literally tens of thousands, or perhaps literally millions ... billions ... ? Canadian politicians are not all on Mr Baird's side though. Liberal MP Dennis Coderre said "The bottom line is that because of Mr. Baird's ego and because the prime minister was acting like a bully regarding that issue ... it created a lot of problems."
- At a press conference on 27 November 2010, UAE Economy Minister Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri said about desired additional flights for Emirates and Etihad that "Each additional flight would contribute $60 million to the Canadian economy. It will provide job opportunities for the Canadians." But Canada disagrees - Melissa Lantsman, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa said "Canada is not prepared to put Canadian workers out of work by allowing foreign-owned subsidized airlines to flood the market," apparently under the impression that Emirates and Etihad are subsidized (they're not), unless she was referring to airlines from countries other than the UAE (Bloomberg 27 November 2010).
- In early January 2011, Bob Rae, the Foreign Affairs Critic MP for the opposition Liberal Party in Canada, visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi on a fact-finding mission, or something like that, to see about smoothing things over between the Canadian and UAE governments. The Globe and Mail quoted Mr Rae as saying "I have never seen such a ham-fisted and confrontational approach to a friendly and moderate country in my political experience." Presumably he was talking about his own country, Canada being "ham-fisted" rather than the UAE. Anyway, if it was the UAE, it would probably have been more appropriate to have said "beef-fisted" or "lamb-fisted." The Canadian Prime Minister was not amused though - Dimitri Soudas from the PM's office was quoted as saying "Canadians expect that when Canadian MPs travel abroad they represent Canada and Canadian interests. ... It would be extremely regrettable if Canadian interests were undermined in any way," apparently completely missing that it was precisely Canadian's interests that Mr Rae was attempting to de-undermine (or whatever the opposite of undermine is).
- Also in January 2011, a trade delegation from Alberta, led by Iris Evans (Alberta Minister for International and Intergovernmental Relations), visited the UAE to tout for business, showing that not everyone in Canada is treating the UAE like a pariah. Unknown if the trade delegation had any visa problems on entry to the UAE.
- On 20 January 2011, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a well known UAE based columnist, wrote a positive and well-balanced opinion piece for the Canadian newspaper, The Globe & Mail. He reflected on the benefits of cooperation between the UAE and Canada over the past years, and observed that no one stood to gain over the current dispute. Unknown what the Canadian government thought of his suggestion that perhaps a trial run of additional flights for Emirates and Etihad could be considered, with permissions being revoked if it turned out the fear of lost jobs was realised.
- On 25 January 2011, The Toronto Star reported that Sandra Pupatello, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade, led a trade delegation to the UAE. In the report, she commented on the current UAE-Canada dispute with some criticism directed at Canadian leadership saying "Their messaging is quite negative. I'm a little concerned by that because we're trying to overcome this,"
New visa rules for Canadians visiting the UAE and fallout
- 28 May 2013 - AFP reported that the free visa on arrival option would be restored for Canadians from 01 June 2013. The report said Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his UAE counterpart, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had agreed last month to restoring the previous visa regime.
- 02 Apr 2013 - news reports said that the visa requirements for Canadians were discussed by the Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and the UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah, with a view to lifting them in or after May 2013. Mr Baird was visiting Abu Dhabi, and went for a coffee with Sheikh Abdullah at the new Tim Hortons cafe in Abu Dhabi Mall according to press reports (Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee shop chain).
- 18 September 2012 - UAE visit visa fees for Canadians reduction
- The Globe and Mail in Canada reported that UAE visit visa fees for Canadian citizens would be reduced, possibly by a third. But didn't say when.
- The report also referred to a nuclear energy cooperation agreement signed between Canada and the UAE as being a step towards more friendly relations ... and cheaper visas, but apparently not a return to the visa-on-arrival option Canadians used to have.
- 12 March 2012
- A WAM news report said Sultan Al Mansoori, UAE Minister of Economy said that the bilateral relations between the UAE and Canada were entering a new era of co-operation. Referring to a visit to Ontario by a delegation from the UAE, including the minister.
- The new era of co-operation did not appear to include removal of visa fees for Canadians, or additional landing rights for UAE airlines though.
- The report also said (referring to the minister) He praised the response of the Canadian officials who showed strong interest in co-operating with the UAE in all fields to raise the relations to the highest levels. He underlined the need to strengthen communications and overcome the obstacles and challenges and look forward to enhancing economic relations between the two countries.
- 06 March 2012 update
- A WAM news report had the headline "UAE-Canada ties strong and excellent" after a joint press conference held by UAE Foreign Minister H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird in Ottawa on 05 March 2012.
- According to Mr Baird, the two foreign ministers discussed "a wide range of issues, including" ... "the humanitarian situation in Syria and regional peace and security" ... "nuclear cooperation" ... "expanding ties" ... "the creation of a Canada - UAE business council."
- There was no mention in the report of any discussion about landing rights in Canada for UAE airlines, or UAE visas for Canadian nationals, two issues one would have thought would be fairly high on the list of any discussions between the respective foreign ministers.
- 15 January 2011 - Senator Colin Kenny wrote an opinion piece (or diatribe) for the Calgary Herald (Canada should drop the gloves with the UAE) saying that the UAE is essentially a bunch of pompous thugs behaving like Canadians need them, essentially sounding like a pompous thug himself.
- 12 or 13 January 2011 - The Canadian Press reported they had obtained a document from 17 October 2006 ("Proposed Framework for Commercial Cooperation") showing that Air Canada had suggested a profit sharing deal with Emirates Airline on routes between Canada and the UAE. The proposal was for daily flights between Toronto and Dubai with Air Canada and Emirates sharing profits 50:50. An editorial in The Toronto Star on 12 January 2011 said It asked Emirates to operate its own aircraft on the routes. It even suggested flight times to maximize connections with Air Canada. Emirates rejected the deal. Emirates Group made a profit of AED 3.5 billion (US$950 million) in the 2006-2007 financial year, Air Canada made a loss of C$74 million for the 2006 financial year (we think, we're not so good at reading financial statements and annual reports).
- 12 January 2011 - Gulf News said Gulf News has learnt that the UAE government is furious over Harper's attack and relations between two nations are extremely strained.
- 09 January 2011 - The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was interviewed by QMI Agency and reported to have said "give me a break," apparently whining that it's not fair how the UAE is behaving. He didn't say when he ever had or was planning to give the UAE a break, but he did also say "That's just not how you treat allies, and I think tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future," which sounds like Mr Harper is ready to take his bucket and spade and find some new friends.
- 02 January 2011 - a UAE visa for Canadians had to be applied for in advance, with visa fees of C$250, C$500, or C$1000 for 30 day, 90 day, or 6 month visas respectively.
- 01 January 2011 - the Calgary Herald published an opinion piece criticising the behaviour of the UAE, entitled UAE acting like a spoiled child, saying, among other things, Now, act like adults, drop your petty, vindictive behaviour, and sit down in civilised fashion to talk about a resolution, and finishing with the line When the UAE stops behaving like a two-year-old in the grocery store cookie aisle, Canada will likely be more than ready to talk. Which summarised the tone of the article, and demonstrated a significant memory lapse on the part of the writer - the UAE had been attempting to talk to Canada for months, if not years. As pointed out by the Gulf News on 04 January 2011 when they said UAE ambassador has waited three months to talk to senior ministers in Ottawa. Another Gulf News report on 07 January 2011 said that in the previous 4 years, 11 letters were sent by the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority to the Canadian government, and these 11 letters were never answered.
Last update Wednesday 12-Jun-2013. Page development 4L 5C.