Finance Minister Bill Morneau has signalled to the parents of children tagged on Canada's no-fly list as potential security threats that next week's federal budget could include money to establish an independent no-fly-list computer system to end airport hassles for law-abiding Canadians.
Mr. Morneau has invited parents, who use the hashtag #NoFlyListKids, to his Ottawa office on Tuesday for a half-hour discussion. The families have also been invited to a stakeholder lock-up on Feb. 27, the day the budget will be tabled in Parliament.
They say this is a strong indication that Mr. Morneau has heeded their call. The grassroots parents group has marshalled Liberal and opposition parties to push the Trudeau cabinet to put an end to nerve-racking airport delays for youngsters whose names match others on Canada's no-fly list.
"We feel confident we have been heard and we are hopeful that next's week federal budget will do right by Canadian families in this difficult situation," the parents told The Globe and Mail in a statement Monday.
Mr. Morneau's office confirmed that the Finance Minister is meeting the affected families and they will be also included in the budget lock-up. An official would not comment on what might be in the budget, which is expected to focus on gender equality, science, conservation and innovation.
The #NoFlyListKids parents have letters of support from 208 MPs, including 17 cabinet ministers, such as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and 128 Liberals, urging Ottawa to fund an independent no-fly list database.
Last year, the Public Safety Department proposed $78-million annually to set up a U.S.-style, standalone no-fly-list database, but the measure was killed by the Finance Department.
Unlike the U.S. system, Canada's list does not include dates of birth, sex or other information to ensure that two people with the same name aren't mistaken.
"The flaws in the the No Fly list affect thousands of Canadians, including their children. Its shortcomings negatively impact the overall security and rights of innocent Canadians and cannot be allowed to continue unfixed in a free society," the #NoFlyListKids group said in its statement.
A properly funded redress system would allow passengers whose names closely match those on the no-fly list to apply for a unique identification number.
Travellers who have been falsely flagged say it results in travel delays, an inability to check in online and increased scrutiny by airlines and security staff.
"There is unprecedented and multi-party support for a full redress system that will allow Canada to catch up with the United States, which implemented a redress system in 2008," the #NoFlyListKids group said.
The federal government won't disclose how many people are on the country's no-fly list.
Public Safety has said Ottawa is committed to improving the reliability of the no-fly system, but acknowledged it will take time to develop a database system. It has suggested that frustrated travellers whose names are wrongly flagged should join an airline loyalty program such as Air Canada's Aeroplan.
The department says travellers who are mistakenly flagged can go to the check-in counter and the issue is usually resolved after a 10- to 15-minute delay.
But Amber Cammish disputes the 15-minute delay estimate, saying her four-year-old daughter, Alia Mohamed, was delayed for 45 minutes until security cleared her for a flight from Vancouver to Terrace, B.C., last June.
The federal government is proposing an amendment to the Secure Air Travel Act that would allow federal officials to electronically screen air passenger information against the watch list, now currently in the hands of airlines. Ottawa says this would prevent false name matches by enabling it to issue unique redress numbers for pre-flight verification of identity.
To do this, a new computer system needs to be built to handle the screening.
Parents and kids who have endured airport delays because a young person’s name matches one on a no-fly list are asking politicians to resolve the issue
The Canadian Press