Thursday, June 21, 2007

Transport minister responds to critical coverage of no-fly list

In the wake of some critical comments in recent news coverage, the Minister of Transportation has an op-ed piece in today's Chronicle Herald.

Nova Scotia News -

Program protects safety, respects rights


In view of recent articles on the introduction of the Passenger Protect Program in Canada on Monday, I would like to clarify some issues.

I must stress, in particular, that Passenger Protect relates to individuals who may pose an immediate threat to aviation security. The program will enable government law-enforcement and security organizations, working with Transport Canada, to alert air carriers to individuals who may pose a threat to a flight, in order to prevent boarding and unlawful interference during the flight that could endanger the general public, passengers and crew.

Such an individual is identified under strict guidelines. It can be someone who is or has been involved in a terrorist group, for example, or an individual who has been convicted of one or more serious and life-threatening crimes against aviation security.

The government began consulting with industry on passenger assessment in May 2004. The program was developed to include the privacy rights provisions needed and in consultations with different groups of the civil society: airlines, airports, police, labour representatives as well as civil liberties and ethnocultural groups. We continue to work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

In short, the program has benefited from parliamentary and public scrutiny, and is based on public law. This government also has as a priority the privacy concerns of Canadians. To this end, we must be clear: Canada’s program has learned lessons from countries all over the world with respect to watch lists, and has taken necessary precautions. This is why the Canadians Specified Persons List took three years of parliamentary consideration, and two years of policy development.

In addition, Transport Canada has established an Office of Reconsideration to permit individuals to challenge a denial-of-boarding decision in a non-judicial, efficient manner. The office will be able to assist individuals to clear up ID issues, and provide a mechanism for review of a case by persons independent of those who made the original decision.

To address terrorism, we must learn from past events, assess evolving threats, and initiate efficient and effective programs that protect public safety and respect the rights of Canadians. Passenger Protect does just that.

I invite readers to get more information on the website, or by phoning 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232), ATS: 1-800-926-9105.

Lawrence Cannon is Canada’s minister of transport, infrastructure and communities.

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