In response to the article Canadians ask hard questions over UAE (October 15): as a western Canadian businessman who has travelled to the GCC for years, I am appalled at the stance taken by the Canadian government. For years I was forced to travel the Air Canada - Lufthansa routing through Frankfurt and on to Abu Dhabi. Prices were high and service was spotty.
When Etihad was granted landing rights in Toronto, we chose to give them a trial run and, because of their competitive rates and superior service, Etihad now has 100 per cent of our business. The Etihad service schedule, as dictated by the Canadian government, means we have to plan our departures in advance which, in some cases, is difficult to accomplish due to client timing conflicts. We are forced to work around this by spending additional days in Abu Dhabi.
I believe that the UAE ambassador's comment regarding having to wait for a year to meet Canada's foreign minister in order to discuss the issue, shows the Canadian government's lack of motivation to resolve the issue, in large part due to the intense lobbying by Air Canada and their allies from Lufthansa. This whole approach by the Canadian government is an insult to companies such as ours who are attempting to build our business in the GCC region and need to rely on not only predictable and regular air links but competitive prices and superior service.
John A MacDonald, President, The Brimrock Group, Canada
Advocate of work visa reform
I refer to Sultan Al Qassemi's opinion article The sponsorship system should not hinder innovation (October 17). The author has scored a major hit with this article. The fact of a restrictive visa system for foreign employees and entrepreneurs/investors in an otherwise liberal and growth-oriented UAE is especially problematic for lots of people who do want to at least try out the UAE as much as many other destinations in the West.
By reforming immigration and work rules along the suggested lines, the UAE is bound to see a big influx of both talent and money that can still be managed without necessarily diluting Emirati identity. It will open horizons for many young Emiratis who want to become part of the global village via homegrown partnerships with global-minded entrepreneurs, without leaving home.
The pluses here far outweigh the minuses. Such steps would be very timely as and as the UAE embraces a path of rejuvenating trade, exports and some manufacturing.
Athar Mian, Abu Dhabi
Needs for future urban planning
In the short run, new technology and conservation measures will help the UAE reduce its excessive environmental impact, but poor urban planning practices will force residents to drive automobiles much more than they should for many years to come. It's clear that Al Ain and Abu Dhabi have serious geographical constraints that have forced them to spread out more than normal, but zoning policies that rigidly separate residential, commercial, and educational areas guarantee that long trips are necessary just to do simple things like fix a tire puncture or get to a pharmacist.
The government is spending a lot on public transport, but they keep approving huge bedroom communities that require residents to travel long distances to get to work and basic services. Our downtown areas would be much less congested if businesses had the freedom and incentives to spread out throughout the city. For example, the Mashreq Bank in Al Ain now has two branches downtown and not even a single ATM machine outside the city centre. In time, some businesses may be able to gradually spread out to be closer to customers, but institutions like the private schools in Al Ain cannot do so without a more rational system for zoning and land use.
Dr Christopher Morrow, Faculty of Education, UAE University, Al Ain
A plea for mutual religious tolerance
I enjoyed reading Fatima al Shamsi's "Emirati in New York" column Even baby steps that show Islamic practices can fight ignorance (October 9). As a non-Muslim living in the UAE, I can appreciate her views about religious understanding and tolerance. I believe that fear of Islam is ignorance.
Living in the Middle East has taught me to understand it. Muslims living outside of their native countries should not be afraid to explain their faith to their friends and colleagues, so that they can understand it too. My friends have explained some things to me about Islam, which then made perfect sense.
Unfortunate incidents in the past have led some people to fear Muslims. Like any religion, one can learn to live harmoniously alongside Islam. In Dubai there are places of worship for non-Muslims and this shows a huge acceptance of foreigners on the nation's part.
In turn, hopefully, those nations will return the favour more openly and gracefully.
SLH, Abu Dhabi