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Transport Canada slow to respond to “escort” scandal

Nov. 10, 2011, Ottawa - As reported in yesterday and today’s Citizen, a website that promoted Canada’s 100th anniversary of flight is now advertising U.S. and Turkish “escorts” after a group of federal government departments and industry associations let its ownership of the domain name lapse.


November 10, 2011
By The Ottawa Citizen

The site still has logos from sponsors such as National Defence, Transport Canada, Nav Canada and the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada on the main page.

But it also has links to websites promoting escorts/prostitutes in Istanbul, Turkey, Washington, DC and other locations in the U.S. The website can be found here:

http://www.canadiancentennialofflight.ca/

The new owner of the site has left a notice for the federal government/industry associations that the aviation content is still being kept as it helps draw in internet viewers. “To previous domain owner: We bought this domain after expiration so it’s not our fault that you lost it,” the owner writes. “We put old content for this domain only to avoid losing good quality of it from SEO point of view. If it’s a problem for you contact us ASAP!”

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So what would you do if you were a media affairs official for Transport Canada or for Transport Minister Denis Lebel and you were faced with this situation? Well ignore it, of course, and hope no one notices.

Chuck Black, editor of Commercial Space, a well-read aviation and space industry website, and a bunch of other individuals think that they should at least been interested in the situation and have done something about it…..fast.

Black phoned Transport Canada 10 days ago to tell them about the hookers and airplane site and ask for comment.

“I was transferred to their communications office where a woman said she had no idea what it was about but she would get back to me within 24 hours,” Black said. He never heard back from the department.

Transport Canada states that they sent Black an email telling him they were looking into the issue but he never got it (media tip #101…try picking up a phone next time and talking to him, or at least confirming that he did receive the email).

Transport Canada, however, didn’t actually move on the issue publicly until the Citizen and Commercial Space articles came out yesterday. Black’s article, for instance, was titled “Canadian Aerospace History Website Now Promoting DC Prostitutes.”

Transport Canada says it is unclear who exactly held the domain name for the website at the time it was used to promote the Centennial of Flight, but they did confirm that the original website (whose domain name was allowed to lapse) was put together by federal departments and industry associations.

Maryse Durette, a Transport Canada spokeswoman, said unauthorized use of Government of Canada copyrighted logos is prohibited. “Transport Canada is attempting to contact the website owner to remove all Government of Canada identification and links,” she added.

For his part, Transport Minister Denis Lebel didn’t bother responding….period.

This all reminds me somewhat of Industry Canada’s approach to media relations on another aircraft issue, although the 10 days that it took Transport Canada to come up with an answer to Chuck Black’s questions is lightening speed compared to anything that Industry Canada could accomplish.

Last year Defence Watch published a post about some of the bizarre actions going on at Industry Canada’s media relation’s branch regarding media questions about the F-35 industrial benefits that were supposed to come to Canadian firms.

The next day a call came in from a senior Industry Canada media relations’ person who informed me that the branch is top-notch in dealing with the news media. Rest assured, she said, I would receive the answer to my F-35 question.

Well that was a year ago and still no answer….so readers can judge for themselves about that.

Defence Watch has since been told by both Defence Department public affairs officers and other journalists that Industry Canada’s media relations branch is pretty useless and non-responses are standard fare. (One journalist suggested that Industry Canada’s media relations’ branch would be a good candidate for layoffs if the government really wanted to save money….DND types say they get zero support from Industry Canadian media relations on the F-35 file).

Any ways, it’s still unclear whether Transport Canada will be able to get its logo and those from other federal departments/organizations (such as DND and the Air Force) removed from the website in question.

Defence Watch will keep readers informed once new details on this issue come in.