A new federal office will handle inquiries from travellers who run into problems at the airport due to aviation-security lists.
The Passenger Protect Inquiries Office is a step toward creating a full homegrown redress system to better deal with false name matches on Canada's no-fly list, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Friday.
The redress system will eventually allow travellers whose names closely match those on the list to apply for a unique identification number, Goodale's office said. They could use this number at the time of ticket purchase to clear their name in advance and prevent delays.
However, the government cautioned, putting this new system in place will require important regulatory and data-system changes — an overhaul that may take more than 18 months.
Dozens of youngsters have recently experienced frustrating airport delays because their names appeared to match those on a security list.
Earlier this year, Goodale reminded airlines that they don't need to vet children against the no-fly list. But some families of children caught in the web say they still can't check their kids in online.
The moves announced Friday represent a victory for many worried families, said Khadija Cajee, whose seven-year-old son Adam has been repeatedly flagged at the airport.
"We have not crossed the finish line yet as the final product remains to be seen and is in the works. However, this is definitely a step in the right direction," said Cajee, a spokeswoman for the group known as the No Fly List Kids.
"The parents of these kids are beyond relieved and very grateful."
The Passenger Protect Inquiries Office will be able to help people who:
- Were delayed during the check-in process and asked to provide identification at the counter;
- Had to wait for their boarding pass due to a ticketing agent placing a phone call to other officials;
- Were denied boarding, whether or not they were told they were on an aviation-security watch list.
Those who are forbidden to fly due to their confirmed presence on the Canadian Passenger Protect list already have a recourse procedure. But until now there has been no formal avenue for those who face difficulties due to list confusion and mismatches.
The government says the new office will co-operate closely with the bilateral working group recently established by Canada and the United States to help sort out errors of identity.
But Goodale said last month Canada needs "an entirely new database and information system" to fully solve the problem of people – including children – being delayed at airports.
Unlike the stand-alone U.S. system, Canada's no-fly list database was designed to piggyback on to airline computers, meaning it's more difficult to clear up misunderstandings, he said.