Foreign pilots free to fly Canadian aircraft after Ottawa quietly removes restrictions

Canada has become the only industrialized nation in the world that allows foreign licenced pilots, some of whom may have obtained their licenses without ever having flown a plane, to operate local commercial aircraft, after Ottawa quietly altered the regulations without any public consultations.

Air Transat Pilot Gilles Hudicourt explains:

In the past, Foreign Licence Validation Certificates, a certificate issued by Transport Canada to a pilot with a foreign licence allowing him/her to temporarily operate a Canadian registered aircraft, could only be issued for specific and limited reasons: For short term recreational reason, to ferry or position an aircraft, to provide or receive type training, to operate a Canadian aircraft for a foreign operator, or to operate a Canadian aircraft wholly outside of Canada. and also also, for specific commercial purposes like fighting forest fires, evacuation, etc in case of national emergencies such as fires, floods etc.

Then in 1998, TC added CASS 421.07(2)(j)

for reasons other than those mentioned above where approval may be given if, in the opinion of the Minister, it is in the public interest and not likely to affect aviation safety.
(amended 1998/03/23; no previous version)

Except that the French version read like this :

j) lorsqu'une demande a la prétention de servir l'intérêt public canadien pour des raisons non pas visées par les circonstances pressantes énumérées ci-dessus, le ministre peut accorder une approbation dans les cas exceptionnels.
(modifié 1998/03/23; pas de version précédente)

The French version of this clause specified that 421.07(2)(j) could only be used in exceptional circumstances, and when authorized by the Minister. It so happens that the original draft of the English version also read that this clause could only be used in exceptional circumstances, and only when authorized by the Minister but for a reason that is not explained in the CARAC archives, of which I have a copy, the part that restricted the use of this clause only in exceptional circumstances was deleted from the published English language version but remained in the French version.

Then Transport Canada, using this clause, began to allow foreign licenced pilots, to fly commercially in Canadaat the controls of large transport category jets operated under 705. Many FLVC were issued to foreign licenced pilots to fly for Skyservice airlines, the Sunwing Airlines and Canjet began using foreign pilots as well.
Some winters, there were over 200 foreign licensed pilots flying large Canadian commercial jet inside of Canada using FLVCs issued under 421.07(2)(j), in clear violation of the French version of the CASS.

In fact, according to statistic obtained from Transport Canada, during certain calendar years, the vast majority of FLVCs issued by TC were issued under 421.07(2)(j).
Lawyers that were consulted all agreed that when an English and French version of a law or Regulation did not match, the most restrictive of the two applied. So the French version of 421.07(2)(j) should have applied since 1998. Yet it was simply ignored.

When Transport Canada was advised of this, they continued to ignore it until last month, when TC unilaterally adjusted the French version of the CASS to the English version, without any public consultations or a second thought.

j) lorsqu’une demande a la prétention de servir l’intérêt public et que la sécurité aérienne ne risque pas d’être compromise pour des raisons autres que celles énumérées ci-dessus, le ministre peut accorder une approbation.
(en vigeur 2016/07/31)

Transport Canada sees no contradiction in having on one hand a very restrictive rule that states:

for operation of Canadian aircraft on Canadian commercial air services in urgent circumstances; such as fire suppression operations, emergency agricultural and forestry aerial application, airlift in relief of domestic natural disasters, and search and rescue operations;
followed right after by clause j) which states that TC can issue FLVCs for any other reason.

With a clause j) with no restrictions, why does a clause g) even exist ?

While pilots licensed by Transport Canada go through rigorous training and testing, there are many countries, such as India, where fake pilots licences are easily obtained, and those who obtained their licences through fraudulent means may soon start operating airlines here putting lives of Canadians at risk, pilots warn.

“I know of no other developed country that has such a liberal policy on allowing pilots licensed in another country to fly for its domestic airlines,” Hudicourt said. “Even the countries from which Canadian airlines import these foreign licenced pilots do not reciprocate in granting the same privilege to Canadian licenced pilots in their country.”

“So why does Transport Canada allow this?” Hudicourt added. “To accommodate the few commercial operators who requested the use of the foreign licenced pilots.”

“The regulations, standards and policies that prohibited this practice in the past were never modified to allow it,” Hudicourt concluded. “Transport Canada just did it, and no one contested it. This practice must stop.”

[Photo Credit: Canadian Aircraft flown by Canadian Pilots]