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Globe editorial: Ottawa should fix the no-fly list and end the unfairness

Some people endanger public safety by being allowed to board an aircraft, which is why Canada has a no-fly list.

None of them are children, though, even if they share a name with people on the no-fly list. The same goes for lots of adults who are victims of the same coincidence.

Our dated, opaque no-fly system has created an absurd, decade-long situation in which far too many travellers continue to bear the onus of proving to airport staff they are not, in fact, public threats based solely on their names.

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How many? According to an analysis by a pair of graduate students at Western University, the list could adversely affect as many as 100,000 Canadians.

Their number may be a vast exaggeration. Or it could be an underestimate. The plain fact is we just don't know.

Even the security-obsessed United States is less secretive. Its no-fly database contained roughly 81,000 names last year, with about 1,000 belonging to American residents.

Ottawa has proposed a legislative remedy for what ails our list, but Bill C-59 just entered the committee stage and likely won't pass for several months.

Even then, advocacy groups like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association suggest the bill doesn't address all the flaws in our slapdash system.

It's not too late for amendments to help eliminate false positives and to further facilitate removal of names included in error. There should also be a clearer and appropriately high threshold for inclusion.

In the meantime, there's nothing stopping cabinet from providing greater transparency or proposing solutions that go beyond urging travellers to join airline loyalty programs, as a government spokesperson did this week.

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Well, nothing other than money. Apparently, creating a no-fly list with enough criteria to distinguish between real and fictional threats will cost $80-million.

That is a lot of money, but delayed or restricted travel is an unfair price for Canadians to pay for having the wrong-looking name. Ottawa should loosen the purse strings if it will help fix this.

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