Canada's No-Fly List Runs Into Rights Storm

Posted on Saturday, November 18 at 14:07 by 4Canada
Of the many security measures introduced after 9/11, no-fly lists have been among the most mysterious, ridiculed, and in the high-profile case of Canadian Maher Arar, have had tragic consequences. Shahid Mahmood of Toronto is among those Canadians who are now frightened to fly to the United States due to questions surrounding no-fly lists, and he encourages others to challenge the government's plan to implement its own list by next year. Since he was denied a ticket for a flight from Vancouver to Victoria in 2004 because his name was flagged by Air Canada, Mahmood, an architect and freelance editorial cartoonist, has spent almost three years hounding government departments and the airline for answers. Among the unresolved questions surrounding Passenger Protect is how precise the criteria will be in compiling the list, how information will be shared, and whether the project that has already cost $13 million will be effective or is simply a public relations show of force. "Given the precautions we've already taken, why is this necessary?" asks the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Alexi Woods. And if it's not necessary, could the list do more damage than good? The American no-fly list, which has more than 80,000 names on it, was created hastily in the wake of 9/11, and is regarded as unwieldy and unreliable. There have been countless stories of mistaken identities such as the "terrorist toddler," a 4-year-old whose name is flagged whenever he flies with his family. Transport Canada officials say they have learned from the U.S. mistakes, insisting that the need to meet specific criteria and have the consensus of a committee make the Canadian list more sound. But ambiguities remain. Transport Canada says the only people listed will be those who have been "involved in a terrorist group and who can reasonably be suspected will endanger the security of an aircraft or the safety of the public," and those convicted of aviation crimes. [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 20, 2006]


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