From The Ottawa Citizen
Drop the gloves with UAE
BY COLIN KENNY, CITIZEN SPECIAL
The United Arab Emirates is acting like a pompous thug that thinks Canada needs it. We don’t, Colin Kenny writes.
Photograph by CNW Group/Emirates Air
The United Arab Emirates has gone into a princely snit over our refusal to grant it more landing rights in Canada for its airline, and has decided it can bully us into changing our minds. I suggest that we push back, firmly, because the UAE has not realized that Canada has options, too.
Why does the UAE so desperately want more landing rights? Because it has bought a lot of big fat aircraft as part of its decade-long, oil-fuelled spending spree, and needs to fill seats by moving North Americans through Dubai to the Middle East and Asia.
When the Canadian government refused, the UAE proceeded to: a) kick Canada out of our staging base for Afghanistan that was located on UAE soil; b) refuse our minister of national defence and our chief of the defence staff permission to fly through its airspace after they were in the air; and c) introduced the need for expensive visas for any Canadian wishing to visit their country.
Here’s what I think we should consider in response: a) void the landing rights UAE airlines already have; b) forbid them to fly in Canadian air space; c) slow down the processing of visas for anyone from the UAE who wants to visit Canada; and d) tell them to convince us that nobody connected to any of the Emirates’ royal families is supporting antiwestern terrorist activities.
Why would I want to drop the gloves in dealing with the UAE? Because I think they’re essentially a bunch of pompous thugs behaving like Canadians need them. We don’t, and somebody should show them they can’t treat us like the second-class citizens they hire to do virtually all the work in their seven fiefdoms.
I am well aware that some critics argue that the Canadian government has been heavy handed in dealing with the UAE, as though we weren’t properly versed in the delicate ways one must handle trumped up royals.
I say we should deal with them the same way we did when they got haughty about the Canadian Forces flight-training program for the UAE Air Force. That program was going fine until some member of a royal family flunked his flight test, and still wanted to be given qualifications to fly an aircraft. Our military wisely cancelled the training program when the UAE told us that members and friends of a royal family should not be allowed to fail.
Wait, you say. Weren’t the seven families who so ruthlessly rule the UAE being jolly good chaps when they offered us a military base on their soil? Well it wasn’t quite soil — it was unoccupied sand. And let’s keep in mind that our troops were using that stretch of sand to try to defuse terrorism in the region, with only the tiniest military contribution of about 200 “special forces” from the UAE.
Rich oil countries like the UAE should be doing a lot more to combat terrorism than they are. It isn’t just democracies like Canada and the United States that need to fear al-Qaeda and the like. These outfits are also sworn enemies of the ruling classes in places like Saudi Arabia, and yes, the United Arab Emirates. The fact that the UAE was so quick to expel Canada from Camp Mirage for as small a matter as a disagreement over landing rights in Canada suggests a haughty and short-sighted indifference to whether the world succeeds in abating terrorism.
Maybe they’re not indifferent. Maybe they like to play both sides of the street when it comes to terrorism. I have spoken to several intelligence sources who are adamant that leadership within the United Arab Emirates — while posing as friends to NATO — have been pouring money into terrorist movements throughout the Middle East. So we should reward that kind of duplicity with additional landing rights?
Canada is a civilized country trying to do two things on the international front: promote its own interests, and create a fairer, more civilized world. There is nothing fair or civilized about the UAE, nor are things improving. Foreign workers, mostly from Asia, outnumber privileged citizens by a ratio of about four to one, and are notoriously badly treated. This really is a country run by royal thugs, without democracy, free press, free assembly, or any semblance of human rights.
Even if we were just thinking selfishly about promoting the financial interests of Canadians, what does the UAE have to offer? We don’t need their oil, and the economy of their show state of Dubai is a bubble just waiting to burst for the second time.
The UAE argues that denying its airlines more landing rights in Canada amounts to unfair protectionism of our own airlines, most notably, Air Canada. But why not protect against unfair competition? The UAE has two state-subsidized airlines that have bought themselves a bevy of huge aircraft that are eating a hole in the national treasury. They staff the airlines with underpriced help that can be fired at whim, and offer discounts on their visas if you fly on those airlines. Why kill off some Canadian jobs to the benefit of the high-spending UAE treasury.
Finally, it should be noted that five years ago the U.S. Congress decided that it wouldn’t allow the UAE to manage American ports through a state-owned company called Dubai Ports World. Well, you know what? Dubai Ports World owns the company that runs container and break bulk terminals at the Port of Vancouver.
Note to the princes: “You want to keep that Vancouver contract and your current landing rights? Well then write us a letter within 30 days pledging that nobody connected to the royal families running your totalitarian governments is funding antiwestern terrorists, and we’ll check that out with our intelligence people. And meanwhile, start showing us some respect.”
Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.
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