The federal government has announced that new measures aimed at preventing discrimination against Canadians whose names falsely match those on Canada’s no-fly list have officially come into force.
In 2018, Ottawa began the process of creating a redress system for Canadians affected by the country’s no-fly list, committing more than $80-million to fix it, in hopes of resolving delays and humiliation Canadians who are wrongly flagged experience at airports.
The new provisions that have come into force include offering Canadians who believe they are falsely flagged a “Canadian travel number,” which they can use when booking travel to help distinguish them from people on the list. The application to apply for a travel number is scheduled to launch on the Public Safety website within two weeks.
Ottawa will transfer the responsibility of screening travellers against the no-fly list from air carriers to government agencies, which will collect more information such as date of birth and gender. A centralized screening system will automatically check names against the list up to 72 hours before the flight is scheduled, in an effort to solve any issues and prevent delays at check-in.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the regulations allow the government to carry out next steps such as creating the central registry, and allow Canadians to apply for a travel number. He said having the information managed by government agencies also helps protect the private information of individuals.
Mr. Blair said he was greatly motivated to prevent false positives – where Canadians names falsely match people on the list and are delayed at the airport or prevented from boarding their flight.
“I’ve met with the family members and they’ve talked to me not just about the inconvenience but how emotionally impactful this was on them and it was very compelling,” Mr. Blair said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
“They talked about how emotionally impactful this was for the kids to be singled out in this way. I think it was clearly an unintended but most unfortunate consequence of the way in which the system was initially established and we needed to make improvements,” he said.
Mr. Blair said affected families have worked closely with the government to help develop a system that protects children but also maintains safety and security on airlines, saying their advocacy has been important.
Khadija Cajee and her husband, Sulemaan Ahmed, helped found the group No-Fly List Kids, which has urged the government for years to fix Canada’s no-fly list. They said their son, Adam, who is 11 now, has been repeatedly flagged at airports. Adam made national headlines in early 2016 when he was flagged on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Boston for the NHL Winter Classic, and continued to face travel delays after that incident.
“It is a very significant achievement after five very long years of challenging advocacy,” said Ms. Cajee.
Ms. Cajee said she didn’t want her son to ever feel like he was being singled out because of his name, and so hopefully the new system eliminates that marginalization.
“It becomes pretty embarrassing when you’re standing in line and people are staring at you when you’ve done nothing wrong,” Mr. Ahmed added.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said that for years children of Canadian Muslims and others were stopped because of the no-fly list, calling Wednesday’s announcement a huge step forward.
“NCCM has been supporting the call for years for a recourse under the no-fly-list program – and now, for the first time, a recourse has been implemented to protect individuals falsely flagged on Canada’s no-fly list,” said Mr. Farooq.
Conservative Public Safety critic Shannon Stubbs criticized the Liberals for dragging their feet on the issue, calling the time it took to fix the problems unacceptable. She thanked groups, such as No-Fly List Kids, for their advocacy.
“Conservatives will continue to ensure that the Liberals follow through, keep their promise and resolve this issue.”
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