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Transport Minister enhances airport security but no laptop ban

Transport Minister Marc Garneau stands during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on April 6, 2017.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has put in place enhanced airline security measures on passenger planes from some countries, but he says it does not involve a ban on all large electronic devices.

Mr. Garneau was tight-lipped about what type of security measures the government has adopted or what countries are affected.

"I did put in place some measures to increase security for flights coming from certain countries where the destination was Canada, and those measures have now been put in place to ensure greater security for our air passengers," he told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

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Mr. Garneau said he was prevented from discussing the specific measures, citing national security.

"[This is] very sensitive information that would reveal a great deal if it was made public, so you should understand that we cannot talk about it," he said.

Federal sources said the measures involve stricter screening of passengers and checked baggage, but they also would not name the countries.

Mr. Garneau sent a team of officials to Brussels on March 28 to assess intelligence information before deciding whether to require passengers travelling from some Middle East countries to pack all large electronic devices other than mobile cellphones in their checked baggage.

The United States and Great Britain have decided to allow only cellphones and smartphones in the passenger cabin of inbound flights from a number of Muslim-majority countries.

At the moment, Mr. Garneau said Canada has no plans to do the same.

"I will only tell you that those measures are now in place, and they are from different airports where there are flights coming to Canada, and it is based on our evaluation of risk, and for obvious reasons I can't tell you on which flights and in which places. I will not tell you that information because it's important not to make that public," Mr. Garneau said.

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He said similar measures of varying levels have been in place for several years and are assessed regularly.

"We have done this on flights over the years coming from continents like Asia, from Africa, from South America. It is part of our duty to ensure the security of travellers coming to Canada," the minister said.

U.S. Homeland Secretary John Kelly passed on intelligence to Mr. Garneau in a telephone discussion last month after the United States banned laptops on passenger aircraft arriving from 10 airports in eight majority Muslim countries. The RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Transport Canada assessed the intelligence and imposed the secret airline security measures.

The United States and Great Britain have given no details on why they became alarmed about laptops on passenger planes, but The New York Times reported that intelligence showed Islamic State is developing a bomb that could be hidden in portable electronics.

U.S. officials have told Reuters the information gleaned from a U.S. commando raid in January in Yemen that targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) included bomb-making techniques.

AQAP, based in Yemen, has plotted to crash U.S. airliners, and claimed responsibility for the 2015 attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

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The group claimed responsibility for a failed attempt by a Nigerian Islamist to bring down an airliner over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009. The device, which the man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had hidden in his underwear, failed to detonate.

The U.S. ban affects flights from international airports in Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. About 50 flights a day will be affected, all on foreign carriers.

Britain's ban applies to domestic and foreign flights coming from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Of the nine airlines affected by the U.S. ban, eight offer direct routes to Canada through Toronto's Pearson International Airport or Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

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About the Author
Ottawa Bureau Chief

Robert Fife is The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau Chief and the host of CTV's "Question Period with The Globe and Mail's Robert Fife." He uncovered the Senate expense scandal, setting the course for an RCMP investigation, audits and reform of Senate expense rules. In 2012, he exposed the E. More

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