Canada's “no-fly” list comes into effect today, but it has already been causing friction for travellers concerned about being included in its web.
Air carriers in Canada will have access as of Monday to the Specified Persons roll, a controversial roster of names blacklisting some people from boarding aircraft because they are considered a potential threat.
Unlike the U.S. list, which contained an estimated 70,000 names at one point, the Canadian version is expected to contain fewer than 1,000 names.
But Faisal Kutty, a Toronto lawyer who is also vice-chairman and counsel to the Canadian Council on American Relations, is worried that the list will threaten basic rights.
“Common sense should make us wonder how someone can be too guilty to fly and yet be too innocent to be charged,” Mr. Kutty said.
“How can such a list provide anything more than a false sense of security while leaving it rife for blacklisting innocent people as well as racial and religious profiling?”
The U.S. experience has already caused headaches for some Canadians, including Conservative MP John Williams, who raised red flags each time he went to check-in for flights.
His passport and credentials as a member of Parliament were not good enough for U.S. flight officials, and it took almost six weeks to have the alerts removed. He still does not know if his name was actually taken off the U.S. list.
Indeed, in 2004 the U.S. blacklisted one of its own senators. Senator Ted Kennedy was delayed at several airports, and it took more than three weeks and several personal phone calls to the secretary for Homeland Security to have his name removed.
Air Canada has also raised concerns that the new list could spark confrontations at airport check-in counters if travellers are barred from boarding flights.
“The situation could be very tense,” Yves Duguay, the airline's director of security told the Air India inquiry last week.
The federal government announced plans for the Specified Persons List last autumn. To be provided to all airlines that fly within or into and out of Canada, it includes the name, date of birth and gender of anyone who might pose an immediate threat to aviation security on a flight.
Airlines will be required to screen each person's name against the list before issuing a boarding pass, and to ensure that every passenger who looks to be 18 years of age or older carries one piece of valid government-issued photo identification or two pieces without a photo.
After Sept. 18, the regulations tighten again so anyone appearing to be older than 12 years of age must carry one or more pieces of identification, including a health card, a birth certificate, a driver's licence or a social insurance card.
Anyone denied a boarding pass under the program will be able to apply to Transport Canada's Office of Reconsideration, in writing, through e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by telephone (1-866-651-3078).
Failing that, appeals can be made to the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the RCMP Public Complaints Commission or the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Those denied passage can also ask for a judicial review in Federal Court.