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First Air and Canadian North embark on transformative journey to build strong, unified new Northern airline

July 10, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 10, 2019 - First Air and Canadian North are pleased to announce that their respective owners, Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, have completed the transaction that will enable them to begin merging their operations into a strong and unified airline that will provide safe and sustainable air service to Northern customers and charter clients under the name ‘Canadian North’.

As Northern airlines that are dedicated to the well-being of the communities they serve, First Air and Canadian North have shared the same vital mission - to bridge vast distances, bring people together and deliver important goods – always with friendly and helpful customer service. The highly inefficient status quo of two airlines operating overlapping flight schedules with aircraft capacity that has far exceeded demand on most routes has contributed to higher airfares and cargo rates while impeding their ability to invest in improving their operations. The purpose of this merger is to create an airline that will be able to safely and efficiently serve the North for generations to come, with the ability to continually grow and evolve to meet changing market needs. Safe operations will continue to be the number one priority throughout this integration and beyond.

Because of the complex nature of the airline industry and the many essential services that First Air and Canadian North provide, this integration is expected to take 18 to 24 months, with a tremendous amount of planning, coordination and hard work to be completed within distinct phases. During the initial stages, First Air and Canadian North will continue to serve customers under two separate brands. Scheduled services customers will continue to book, fly and ship cargo with either airline, and charters clients, partners and vendors will also continue to work with the team members and departments they are familiar with.

Looking Ahead

  • A major priority will be to develop a combined flight schedule that will enable customers of both airlines to book any flight operated by First Air or Canadian North. This schedule will be released later this year, several months before it takes effect. Communities will continue to receive passenger and cargo capacity that fully meets their needs, with competitive passenger and cargo rates.
  • Canadian North’s popular Aurora Rewards loyalty program will be expanded to all scheduled flights operated by First Air, so that customers of both airlines have the ability to earn Aurora Rewards points and Aeroplan Miles that can be redeemed for free flights.
  • A unified ‘Canadian North’ brand will begin to roll out, featuring the First Air’s distinctive Inukshuk logo and red and white colour palette. This brand will be seen in more and more places as time progresses, including the website, uniforms, counter signage and aircraft livery.
  • Dedicated and hard-working First Air and Canadian North team members will be brought together under the unified Canadian North banner. This will be a gradual process that will be completed hand-in-hand with other milestones such as combining flight reservations systems, fare products, operational processes, fleets and facilities.
  • The merged airline will strive to lead the aviation industry as a top employer, with continued focus on recruiting Inuit and other Indigenous team members for excellent careers within this sector.

“We are embarking on an exciting journey and our destination will be a stronger and more sustainable airline, focused entirely on providing safe and friendly passenger and cargo service to the people, organizations and communities that depend on us,” said Chris Avery, President and CEO of First Air who will serve as leader of the merged organization. “We understand that our actions touch many lives, so we will maintain a ‘community-first’ approach throughout this integration, which includes carefully considering the essential needs of our customers when making decisions, communicating clearly and listening for feedback.”

The unified Canadian North will leverage its experience and capabilities to expand other areas of its organization that will also contribute to its overall sustainability, such as its successful Charters division, with additional resources available to serve existing clients and bring in new business. This diversification will enable continued growth and evolution, regardless of economic conditions. The merged airline will also continue to lend its support to important community events and initiatives throughout the North.

Facebook:

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www.facebook.com/canadiannorthair

Twitter:

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www.twitter.com/canadiannorth

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For more information please contact:

Dan Valin
Manager, Marketing and Communications
First Air
Tel: 613.254.6294
dvalin@firstair.ca

Kelly Lewis
Manager, Marketing and Communications
Canadian North
Tel: 403.648.6101 
klewis@canadiannorth.com


Statement from Canadian North and First Air, confirming regulatory approval to create strong, unified new northern airline

June 20, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 20, 2019 – Canadian North and First Air are pleased to confirm that our respective ownership groups, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and Makivik Corporation, have received regulatory approval to combine our people and resources into a strong, unified new pan-Arctic airline that will provide safe and sustainable air service to Northern customers and charter clients under the name ‘Canadian North’.

Makivik and IRC have released a separate announcement (shown here) that reaffirms their commitment to ensuring that the merged airline continues to meet the needs and expectations of Northerners throughout the integration and beyond. They will now prepare to complete the necessary transaction that will formalize this merger and enable us to begin the multi-phase integration of our operations.

Detailed information about the upcoming start of the integration process will be provided when the merger transaction is completed within the coming weeks. In the meantime, Canadian North and First Air will continue to operate as two separate entities, providing safe, friendly and reliable air service to our respective customers.

Canadian North and First Air commend everyone who contributed to this approval process, for recognizing the many benefits that this merger will provide to the residents of Northern Canada who depend on the availability of safe and sustainable year-round passenger and cargo service for all aspects of their lives. By combining our people and resources into a strong, unified airline, we will be able to operate far more efficiently and the improved sustainability we achieve will create new paths for us to invest in our long-term growth and renewal, for the benefit of everyone we serve.

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Dan Valin
Manager, Marketing and Communications
First Air
Tel: 613.254.6294
dvalin@firstair.ca

Kelly Lewis
Manager, Marketing and Communications
Canadian North
Tel: 403.648.6101
klewis@canadiannorth.com


Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Development Group respond to Competition Bureau report on the merger of First Air and Canadian North

February 26, 2019

OTTAWA, February 26, 2019 – The ownership groups of First Air and Canadian North today issued the following statement in response to the Competition Bureau’s report regarding a merger between the airlines:

“While we acknowledge the Competition Bureau's mandate to provide input to the Minister of Transport for his public interest review of the merger between First Air and Canadian North, its artificially restricted findings in this matter are of limited value and suggest a superficial understanding of the Inuit organizations proposing this solution for sustainable northern transportation.

“Our Inuit communities are surprised and extremely dismayed by the report and it is our sincere hope and expectation that the Minister will pursue his mandate of reconciliation and acknowledge that the very organizations proposing this merger have a constitutional mandate to represent the rights and interests of Nunavik and the Inuvialuit Region.

“The Bureau abandoned its usual practice of considering efficiencies associated with a merger of this nature. By neglecting to consider the overwhelming financial and non-financial benefits to northerners that will be generated, the Bureau’s assessment fails to recognize that a merger is necessary to sustain air travel to the North and relieve the substantial financial burden currently shouldered by Inuit Land Claim Organization (LCO) owners. This process is representative of southern-led institutions’ continued ignorance of northern businesses and we disagree with the Bureau’s decision to ignore the overwhelming and substantial positive impacts this transaction would have for northerners.

“The Bureau’s narrowed focus also ignores the economic realities (i.e., significant inefficiencies due to overlapping routes, insufficient demand and redundant schedules servicing small and sparsely settled remote communities over vast distances) which are driving the parties – who otherwise face the risk of being driven out of business – to do this deal. A merger will allow us to realize operational efficiencies that are needed to bridge the service gap and continue to be financially viable. Contrary to what the Bureau has written in its report, our airlines already face direct competition and the constant possibility of new competitors every day. Our steadfast goal is to provide customers with quality, sustainable air services at competitive prices as a strong, single airline.

"The Makivik Corporation and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation have been tasked by our Inuit beneficiaries, stakeholders and all Inuit to bridge the gap between northern and southern living conditions. Currently, exorbitantly high costs of living – in part due to the challenging and high-cost nature of operating businesses in the North – result in sub-standard living conditions for our peoples. Before Inuit can be meaningful participants in the national economy, they must be meaningful participants in the northern economy; an efficient Pan-Arctic airline is the only long-term, viable answer that will provide immediate benefits.

“Our Inuit-led solution came about through hundreds of hours of discussion among Inuit and northern-elected leaders. The incomplete analysis in the Competition Bureau’s report demonstrates a lack of understanding of the northern reality which disproportionately and negatively impacts Inuit.We are reminded that the federal government has bailed-out southern national carriers, while northern airlines see continual increases in regulation and fees. The Government of Canada must not ignore Inuit autonomy, elected Inuit leaders and LCOs; continuing to do so only sacrifices the short and long-term socio-economic condition of all northerners.

“Both corporations urge the Minister of Transport to exercise his authority under the Canada Transportation Act to evaluate this merger holistically, cognizant of the long-term needs of northerners and giving appropriate weight to the overwhelmingly positive impacts on certainty and flexibility of service, connectivity, safety, environment, and self-determination of our peoples. We also ask the Minister to take into account that the new airline will act as an economic driver in the circumpolar region as one of the North’s largest private-sector employers. Any meaningful analysis of the merger would consider these significant benefits.

“We will continue working with Transport Canada as it completes its full analysis of the public interest promoted by this merger and considers the important economic, social and environmental factors that the Competition Bureau did not. We are confident that the merger between First Air and Canadian North will emerge as utterly essential to the public interest.

“Upon the completion of Transport Canada’s review and the receipt of all applicable regulatory approvals, we intend to finalize the merger. Until that time, we will continue providing our northern communities with access to safe and reliable air travel services at the financial expense of our Inuit beneficiaries.

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Media contacts: William Tagoona, Communications Director, Makivik Corporation, (819) 964-2925, wtagoona@makivik.org; Mark Fleming, Chief Financial Officer, Inuvialuit Corporate Group, (867) 678-5429, MFleming@inuvialuit.com


First Air Announces New Senior Executives

October 1, 2018

October 1, 2018 – Kuujjuaq, QC – Following the announcement on Friday September 28th regarding the merger of the airlines First Air and Canadian North, the Board of Directors is announcing a change of leadership. The Board and Makivik Corporation wish to express their sincere appreciation for the leadership of Mr. Brock Friesen in his role as President and Chief Executive Officer. “I’m pleased to support these changes at First Air,” stated Makivik President Charlie Watt. “Friday was an historic day for Inuit and Inuvialuit as we signed an agreement to merge the two airlines by the end of the year. We are embarking in a new era of northern aviation, and we would like to thank Brock Friesen for his five years of service to First Air as President and CEO.”

The Board is pleased to announce that Chris Avery has been appointed as the new First Air President and Chief Executive Officer. He was formerly the Vice-President of Customer and Commercial Operations at the airline. Mr. Avery joined First Air in 2017, and has taken on progressively more senior positions in his 25 years of aviation and travel industry experience, including senior management positions at WestJet, Alaska Airlines, Canadian Airlines International, and Transat Holidays.

Mr. Johnny Adams will concurrently take on a greater role in the airline as Executive Chairman, expanding his role as the current Chairman of the First Air Board. Mr. Adams has a long history of public and private executive service in the Nunavik region and beyond, and extensive business experience as an entrepreneur. Mr. Adams has served on the First Air board of directors for over ten years and since June 2017, has been the Chairman of the First Air Board of Directors. “With our new planned partnership with Inuvialuit Corporate Group, we are focusing on cooperative relationships with our new partners and on the customers and communities we currently serve as well as on strategic opportunities on the horizon. We have great confidence in Mr. Avery’s abilities to deliver on this new direction.”

The senior executive changes took effect as of October 1, 2018.

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Contact:

William Tagoona
Director of Communications
Makivik Corporation
Tel. 819-964-2925
wtagoona@makivik.org

Makivik is the land claims organization mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivik's role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth by providing assistance for the creation of Inuit-operated businesses in Nunavik. Makivik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty, and education of Inuit in the communities.

www.makivik.org

Dan Valin
Manager, Marketing and Communications
First Air
(613) 254-6294
dvalin@firstair.ca

About First Air

With over 70 years of flying experience, First Air is the leading airline in Canada’s Arctic, providing scheduled service to Northern Communities with connections to Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

First Air is 100% owned by Makivik Corporation, representing the Inuit beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

www.firstair.ca


New milestone agreement reached to merge First Air and Canadian North to better serve Pan-Arctic communities

Combined airline will offer solid service improvements for passengers

September 28, 2018

OTTAWA, September 28, 2018 - Makivik Corporation (Makivik) and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) today announced they have signed a definitive agreement to merge First Air and Canadian North in order to provide the best possible air services across the Arctic. Following the receipt of government regulatory approvals, Makivik and ICG will proceed to complete the merger. The parties expect to complete the transaction by the end of 2018.

The proposed Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name "Canadian North" and aircraft will feature the new First Air livery, including its Inukshuk logo. Headquarters for the proposed airline will be located in Ottawa. The two airlines first announced their intention to merge on July 6, 2018.

Customers of First Air and Canadian North will see continuity in operations while the merger is finalized. The parties are committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to schedules and commercial flights on an ongoing basis.

The new, wholly Inuit-owned airline intends to be an economic driver in the circumpolar region as one of the North’s largest private-sector employers. Offering more flights to more destinations, the new airline hopes to help expand Arctic tourism in the communities it serves by increasing demand for tourist-related businesses and services.

“The combined airline will have more opportunity to generate economic spinoffs in our communities,” said Charlie Watt Sr., Makivik President. “This agreement solidifies our shared vision for a Pan-Arctic Airline Company which will eventually offer a better circumpolar service than ever before.”

The parties are pleased to announce this merger will result in significant service improvements for their valued customers, including:

  • Improved schedule: Better time-of-day options on certain routes, enabling day trips;
  • Better connectivity: Improved connections for Northern communities;
  • Increased service opportunities: Potential new routes to service more Northern destinations;
  • Existing service maintained: No reduction in flight options as a result of merger;
  • Further enhanced safety: Will enable aircraft modernization across the network, as well as specialization in maintenance of B737 and ATR aircraft; and
  • Expanded charter business: Particularly related to Alberta natural resources and Northern charters, including for tourism.

"We are proud of Canadian North's track record of providing safe, stable air service to customers in the North,” said Patrick Gruben, Chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation (IDC). “This exciting milestone in our partnership with Makivik represents a joint commitment to continue providing air service excellence, a most vital lifeline, to Northerners across the Arctic region.”

As dedicated stewards of the Arctic environment, both Makivik and ICG are energized by the positive ecological impact the merged airline will have. The consolidation of duplicate, undercapacity flights, for example, will not only improve business efficiencies, but also significantly reduce GHG emissions and black carbon particulate along those routes.

A Lufthansa Consulting report commissioned by the Government of Nunavut supports the need for more efficiency in Nunavut air transportation services; the parties are confident the merger between First Air and Canadian North will meet and exceed these essential needs for all Northerners.

In the meantime, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing Northerners with access to safe, friendly and reliable air travel services across the Arctic.

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Media contacts: William Tagoona, Communications Coordinator and Media Relations, Makivik Corporation, (819) 964-2925, wtagoona@makivik.org; Mark Fleming, Chief Financial Officer, Inuvialuit Corporate Group, (867) 678-5429, MFleming@inuvialuit.com


First Air and Canadian North join forces to better serve Pan-Arctic communities

July 6, 2018

OTTAWA, July 6, 2018 – Makivik Corporation (Makivik) and the Inuvialuit Corporate Group (ICG) today announced they have signed an agreement in principle to merge First Air and Canadian North in order to provide the best possible essential air services across the Arctic. Makivik took this initiative to begin the discussion under the new direction of Charlie Watt, Sr.

Following execution of definitive agreements and the receipt of applicable regulatory approvals needed to establish a strong new entity, the proposed Pan-Arctic airline will operate under the name “Canadian North” and aircraft will feature new First Air livery, including its Inukshuk logo. Headquarters for the proposed airline will be located in Ottawa. Both Makivik and IDC recognize the value and potential in the North and in the Alberta market and remain committed to supporting and growing the Alberta presence. The parties expect to complete the merger by the end of 2018.

We expect this merger will:

  • Improve Arctic air services by offering customers greater reliability, better on-time service, and fewer interruptions;
  • Further enhance safety by enabling newer aircraft across the network, as well as specialization in maintenance of B737 and ATR aircraft;
  • Improve sustainability and efficiency of Arctic air services thus enabling us to more effectively meet demand across our vast service areas while addressing challenges related to pilot shortages; and
  • Contribute to Northern and Inuit economic development by creating a wholly Inuit-owned, new airline focused on Canada’s North.

“Air service is not a luxury for Northerners; it is a vital lifeline which requires ongoing investment,” said Patrick Gruben, Chair of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation (IDC). “We are proud of  Canadian North’s tremendous success while fulfilling its mandate to provide safe, stable air service to customers in Canada’s Northern regions and we look forward to further improving these services in partnership with Makivik Corporation.”

“The world is changing and we need to adapt to new realities,” said Charlie Watt Sr., Makivik President. “This is one way to assert our sovereignty across the Arctic.”

A report commissioned by the Government of Nunavut supports the need for more efficiency in Nunavut air transportation services; a merger of First Air and Canadian North is the only viable way to both meet and exceed these essential needs for Nunavummiut and all Northerners.

Customers of First Air and Canadian North will not see changes to services, including fares and scheduling, while we work toward achieving regulatory approval and finalizing the merger. Both parties are committed to keeping customers up-to-date on all developments related to scheduled and commercial flights on an ongoing basis.

By merging these airlines we look forward to new economic opportunities in Canada and Internationally, and to better air services for Inuit across the circumpolar region.

In the meantime, both First Air and Canadian North will continue providing Northerners with access to safe, friendly and reliable air travel services across the Arctic.

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