CATSA employees perform security checks of passengers and their carry on at a security screening area at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Canada looks to United States for help on solving no-fly list headaches

The Public Safety Canada memos detail the steps being taken to redesign Canadian no-fly procedures

Canadian security officials have turned to their U.S. counterparts for advice on revamping Ottawa’s troublesome no-fly list that has ensnared young children trying to check in at the airport.

Newly released memos show Canadian representatives held a series of consultations with American officials to learn from their experiences implementing a new passenger screening and redress system a decade ago.

READ MORE: Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

The Public Safety Canada memos, released under the Access to Information Act, detail the steps being taken to redesign Canadian no-fly procedures — from legislative and regulatory changes to hefty information-technology investments.

“It’s important to note that implementing the enhanced passenger protect program is a substantial undertaking that will take time,” says one memo. “It involves the passage of legislation, new regulations, the development and testing of IT systems, and domestic air carriers adopting the new system.”

The changes have been spurred in large measure by parents of children who have repeatedly endured nerve-wracking airport delays because a youngster’s name matches one on the no-fly list.

A bill currently before the Senate would allow federal officials to electronically screen air-passenger information against the list, a process now handled by the airlines.

The system is expected to closely mirror the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight screening program in place since 2009 — changes that flowed from recommendations of the inquiry into the 9/11 airliner attacks on New York and Washington.

As with the U.S. system, Canadian travellers who have experienced difficulties would be given a unique “redress number” to help avoid mismatches.

The airline would give the number along with the passenger’s date of birth and gender to the government for screening against the Secure Air Travel Act watchlist. Federal officials would then let the carrier know of any additional screening requirements or an outright prohibition on allowing the person to fly.

Canadian officials visited Washington in February 2017 for an overview of the Secure Flight program and associated technology and costs, the internal memos say. Public Safety officials made a second trip to the U.S. capital in November of that year to discuss the program further with the Department of Homeland Security.

Officials from Public Safety, Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency took part in a call with U.S. counterparts in February 2018, the notes indicate. That was followed by another visit to Washington two month later to discuss “a number of outstanding questions,” the documents say.

In addition to learning about the U.S. experience with redress numbers, it has been useful to hear about Washington’s dealings with air carriers — the majority of which serve both the Canadian and U.S. market, said Zarah Malik, a Public Safety Canada spokeswoman.

Canadian officials have also talked to the Americans about the identity documents being accepted for U.S. domestic air travel, as well as how officials there have dealt with computer-system outages working in a near round-the-clock environment, she added.

In addition, consultations have taken place with civil society groups, international and domestic airlines and the broader travel industry.

Civil liberties advocates have criticized the no-fly regime as overly secretive and lacking due process for those who contest their inclusion on the list.

Once legislation governing the new program passes, regulations would be introduced to help flesh out procedures. “The regulatory process can be a lengthy one as it includes numerous steps,” says an internal memo.

Project implementation will start with development of information-technology systems by both the air carriers and the government, a process expected to take several month, the memo adds. “These systems will be tested thoroughly to ensure the future success of the program.”

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Interior Health: BCCDC

Numbers from the BCCDC’s dashboard show 193 of the 195 COVID-19 cases in the region have recovered

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

No immediate threat of flooding in Nakusp area: RDCK official

High water levels have been reported near Burton and Edgewood last weekend

Nakusp Hot Springs campground opens to RVs today

No tenting will be permitted at the campground at this time

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Nelson counsellor works online with university students in central Asia during pandemic

Robin Higgins is home from her job in Tajikistan because of COVID-19

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Angel Flight takes flight from Creston after being grounded by COVID-19

Angel Flight is a volunteer-run organization which gives people flights to doctors appointments

Nature Conservancy takes in more lands near Canal Flats

Badgers, bears and birds to benefit from bolstering bunchgrass conservation in Rocky Mountain Trench

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Most Read