Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) have been mobilizing an effort to lift the ban on direct Montreal-Beirut flights.
Montreal has an estimated 250,000 Lebanese residents and after living there for over 8 years, I got to see how strong and active the Lebanese community is over there. Montreal has the most number of Lebanese churches outside of Lebanon, currently at 7 in the greater Montreal area. Everyone is always talking about spending summer or Christmas “down in Beirut.” It just seems like a no-brainer to have the direct Montreal-Beirut flights.
The demand for direct flights is only going to increase as the Canadian government cites the Lebanese population in Canada as growing faster than the overall Canadian population. 49% of whom were born outside of Canada.
I remember when I came to Lebanon from Montreal in the summer of 2005, my flight was hectic (to say the least). It was a direct 10-hour flight to Amman, Jordan then another 2-hour flight from Amman to Beirut. I remember thinking how much smoother the trip would be if it was a direct Montreal-Beirut flight.
In 2003, Air Canada was about to launch a direct Montreal-Beirut flight and thousands of Lebanese-Canadians had bought their tickets already for that summer. The Canadian Government, citing “national security” issues, withdrew the airline’s license to fly non-stop to Beirut.
A senior federal government official claimed it was to “safeguard Canadians against terrorism” based on information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
Thing is, there are regular direct flights from the UK, Italy, Germany and France. Air France runs 3 flights a day between Paris and Beirut. So why not from Montreal or Toronto? If it’s safe for all those European countries, why not for Canada?
Is Beirut more dangerous than Pakistan? In 2016 alone, Pakistan has 12 terrorist attacks (including in Lahore) and 20 terrorist attacks the year before (including in Karachi). Yet Air Pakistan runs direct flights between Toronto and 3 Pakistani cities: Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
What about Egypt? A Russian plane leaving from Egypt was brought down by a suspected bomb (killing 224 people). But we still have direct flights between Toronto and Cairo.
And Turkey? Just a few months ago, there was a terrorist attack at the Istanbul airport, leaving 45 dead.
According to Kataeb.org, the head of Beirut’s Rafic Hariri Airport, Fadi El-Hassan, said that Middle East Airline and Air Canada are undergoing “serious negotiations” to bring back the direct Montreal-Beirut flight.
Mohammad El Hout, Chairman of MEA, also said:
There is a possibility that MEA will begin direct flights to Canada and Air Canada to Lebanon. Air Canada stopped flights to Lebanon more than ten years ago, citing security reasons. We hope this has been abolished now.
If you’re living in Canada, you can demand that the government grant the license required to establish direct Montreal-Beirut flights here: