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Saturday,  May 18, 2024 6:29 PM 

A protest in support of Canada's travel industry is happening in Ottawa on Sept. 23

A protest in support of Canada's travel industry is happening in Ottawa on Sept. 23
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

An independent group of aviation workers and travel professionals is holding a protest on Parliament Hill in a bid to convince the Canadian Government to provide financial help for Canada’s ailing airline and tourism industry.  

“Aviation workers made redundant in Canada by the COVID-19 crisis,” a Facebook group of 9,600 members, is behind the march, which is set to take place on September 23rd between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. (EST) in front of the federal parliament buildings on Wellington Street in Ottawa.

“We are asking the Government of Canada to come to the aid of Canada’s aviation industry by providing direct financial help to Canadian airlines, airports and even NAV-Canada,” reads a statement posted to the group’s Facebook page.

Members of the group include aviation workers who were “made redundant by their employers because of border closures caused by the COVID-19 crisis,” as per the description. 

The group urges members to invite “aviation friends who were also laid off by their employers” amid the pandemic to join their cause.

Marc-André Bibeau, a senior IT analyst for a major airline who was furloughed amid the pandemic, is one group member who intends on participating at the rally on Sept. 23rd.

In a statement to PAX, he said the protest comes at a time when the industry requires urgent action and financial relief.

“We hope the government will understand the urgency of providing financial aid to the suffering travel industry, but also to relieve the imposed quarantine measures to travellers to and from Canada, which are overly exaggerated and causing shocking damage to our industry,” Bibeau told PAX. “We also aim at proving to people that air travel is 100 per cent safe through all the measures put in place by airlines.”

Bibeau said the group is not affiliated with the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) nor the Canadian Travel & Tourism Roundtable, a group of 120+ industry leaders that was formed in June to promote a “responsible reboot” of the travel economy. 

What they’re demanding

In addition to financial help, the group is also asking the Canadian government to:

  • Pass legislation and institute measures that will allow international passenger service to be re-introduced in a safe, secure and responsible manner without the need for blanket travel bans as well as find alternate solutions to minimize the quarantine of passengers entering Canada.
  • Provide financial aid and subsidies up to and including assuming operational expenses of the Canadian aviation companies and their subsidiaries given the collateral suspension of operations (should the borders need to remain closed).
  • Recognize [aviation] as an essential service that connects every area of Canada's national and global economy from delivery of medical supplies to tourism dollars to transporting migrant workers to farmers to providing jobs to paying billions in tax dollars.

The group states that it is not attacking any specific political party or public person.  

“You must understand that all our elected officials are under extreme pressure from different public groups impacted by the pandemic. We have an obligation to do our part to ensure we work together and do our part to provide our services in a safe socially responsible manner,” reads a statement. “Our public officials are leaving us out of the global equation.  We need to show them to do this hurts Canadians as a whole.”

The group also clarifies that they’re not anti-mask, anti-vaccine, “anti-Bill Gates, or anti-anything.”

“We are aviation professionals that want to save our industry in a safe, responsible, and professional manner. We go by the rules, as we have always done.  The government is failing to recognize the essential service we provide, and we will not be thrown under the bus by government inaction,” the group writes. 

Masks must be worn 

According to the group’s “rules of engagement,” protestors participating at the Sept. 23rd march must wear masks and practice social distancing.

“If we show up anywhere, we will wear masks, we will socially distance, we will be polite, we will be orderly, we will be civil and we will STICK TO THE MESSAGE: SAVE CANADIAN AVIATION; SAVE OUR ESSENTIAL COMPANIES and SAVE THE ECONOMY,” a statement reads.

As of Monday morning (Sept. 14), 182 participants submitted an RSVP to the event, stating that they were “Going,” while another 617 people noted that they were “Interested.”  

The group’s demonstration joins a line of other advocacy initiatives within the travel industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, such as ongoing letter writing campaigns organized by ACTA, as well as the formation of a separate association dedicated to the needs of independent and self-employed travel advisors.

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