As many as 2,000 people have secretly been declared security threats by government officials, including CSIS and the RCMP, and will be denied airplane boarding passes as a result of the Canadian no-fly list that went into effect Monday.
Critics say the list must be scrapped because it jeopardizes fundamental human rights to privacy, liberty and the freedom of movement.
But Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon says the new program, called Passenger Protect - which passed its first full day Monday without any problems - has been thoroughly assessed to ensure it does not violate rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
"We've met with the civil-liberty groups. We've met with people who are interested in this file, whether they be air carriers or stakeholders or legal authorities. The Ministry of Justice has gone over this," Mr. Cannon said Monday. "So, I'm quite satisfied that the regulations that were published are the right regulations."
There are "roughly between 500 and maybe 2,000" on the Canadian list, Mr. Cannon said. Compared with the U.S. list, which was compiled after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "ours is much more limited in terms of the criteria."
But Faisal Kulty, who wrote a report for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations that damns the list, said his group has identified at least nine different reasons why it should not be used. "They are actually putting people on a list, not telling them why, not having a hearing before they do it, and their Charter rights are being violated."
There is a presumption of innocence that is being removed here, he said. "You are guilty without being given an opportunity for any kind of process."
Transport Canada officials counter that privacy has been a cornerstone of the program and that constitutional rights, like those guaranteeing mobility and liberty, have been taken into full consideration.
"The department would never take any action certainly contrary to the Charter or any other law of Canada," said Allan Kagedan, the chief of aviation security at Transport Canada. People on the list are still free to travel, just not by plane, and the program has nothing to do with arrest and detention, so liberty is not being curtailed, Mr. Kagedan said.
The list applies to all flights, both domestic and international, and was created by an advisory group to the Transport Minister composed of CSIS agents and the RCMP.
Those named on the list are believed to pose an immediate threat to air security. They must also have been involved, or have been suspected of involvement, in a terrorist group, or they must have committed a serious and life-threatening crime against Canadian aviation.
Airlines are not permitted to print boarding passes for anyone with a name that matches someone on the list until that passenger proves he or she is not the person in question.
That means all passengers must arrive at the airport with one piece of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's licence or a passport, that gives their name, sex and date of birth - or two pieces of government-issued identification, such as a birth certificate, that shows their name, sex and date of birth.