Mohamed Yaffa seems to have a namesake in Canada and, if so, that namesake is very likely on Canada’s “no-fly” list, under the federal government program officially known as Passenger Protect.
Mr. Yaffa is black and a Muslim, and he says that he has repeatedly been put through extra and excessive questioning by Air Canada before being allowed to board a flight. He has complained to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Mr. Yaffa’s complaint is a welcome one. There has not been an examination in courts or quasi-judicial tribunals of Passenger Protect, which came into effect in 2007.
One striking characteristic of the program is that, if one is actually on the list, a person will get what is known as “an emergency direction” telling him that he will not be allowed to board a flight. He can later apply for reconsideration.
But a person who has experienced frequent delays, as Mr. Yaffa has, has no recourse. He or she is not a suspect, but the hassle, the embarrassment and the questioning looks from other passengers may continue, with no end in sight.
It is not insignificant that Mr. Yaffa lives and works in Halifax. Most flights between the Maritimes and Central Canada cross the United States. Passenger Protect may have been largely designed to reassure the U.S. that terrorists would not be flying over American territory. But is Mr. Yaffa rightly on the list? Is he on the list at all? Is he being illegally hassled? He may have a prima facie case against the government that he is being discriminated against by reason of his religion. A legal test of Passenger Protect is overdue.