Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau is seeking assurances from passenger airlines that they have up-to-date measures to confirm pilots' fitness to fly and are rigorously enforcing them.
Garneau's move follows a recent incident in which a Sunwing Airlines pilot was accused of being so drunk that he passed out in the cockpit shortly before scheduled takeoff from Calgary.
A spokesman for Garneau, Marc Roy, says the letter will ask the airlines to provide confirmation that their protocols and safety management systems are up to date and are being enforced "with all required resources, including measures designed to confirm pilots' fitness to fly."
Roy says the objective is to "ensure the highest safety standards."
According to Transport Canada, Canada's largest passenger airlines have safety management systems in place, intended to help them identify safety risks before they become bigger problems to ensure that safety is part of their everyday culture. That includes having proper procedures in place to ensure pilots are competent and fit to fly.
The department has said it is reviewing Sunwing's protocols to ensure the airline's handling of the incident complied with its safety management system and Canadian regulations. It has also said it "will not hesitate" to take enforcement action if necessary, including issuing fines and revoking licenses if appropriate.
Under the Canadian Aviation Regulations, members of a flight crew are prohibited from working within eight hours of consuming alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol. It is up to each airline to ensure those regulations are followed.
Sunwing has said it has a "zero tolerance" policy on crew members consuming alcohol within 12 hours of going on duty. The company says it also trains all employees to look for and report any unusual behaviour.
Sunwing has said it employs about 350 Canadian pilots but contracts up to 60 foreign pilots during peak holiday seasons.
To fly in Canada, foreign pilots must either obtain a Canadian licence or obtain Canadian validation of their foreign licence.