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Effort afoot to keep ICAO headquarters in Montreal

April 24, 2013, Montreal - The federal government is hoping to convince the United Nations to keep its civil-aviation headquarters in Montreal before a vote by member states this fall.


April 24, 2013
By The Canadian Press

The International Civil Aviation Organization has confirmed that the emirate of Qatar made a presentation this week where it offered to serve as the new permanent seat of the organization as of 2016.

It's the only United Nations-related agency in Canada.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis says all three levels of government are doing everything they can to keep the headquarters in Montreal.

The offer from Qatar comes as the Canadian government and ICAO are discussing a new leasing arrangement, which would be in effect from December 2016 through November 2036.

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Under ICAO's rules, the offer must be considered by all of its 191 member states at the next triennial assembly which takes place in September.

A minimum of 60 per cent must agree to the Qatar proposal for it to be approved.

Paradis told reporters at an aerospace trade show that talks are already underway with the city and the provincial government to try keeping the centre in Montreal.

"There are already discussions so that we can have a common approach (and) that we collaborate together,'' Paradis said.

"We'll do all we can to preserve this jewel in Montreal.''

Paradis said that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is in charge of the file and has been actively working on it for several days.

Montreal newspaper La Presse says it's obtained a document in which Qatar outlined a number of complaints about the Montreal headquarters.

The documents cites the cold winters, high taxes, difficulties getting Canadian visas for members of delegations, and "significant dissatisfaction'' by diplomats with services that are offered.

Qatar has also apparently offered a total exemption from taxes for ICAO and its personnel if the move to the Middle East takes place.

The international agency initially established itself in Montreal, in 1944. Its current location on the edges of Old Montreal was inaugurated in 1996.

"We can't allow ourselves to stand around with our arms crossed,'' Paradis said.