Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Canada replicates U.S. folly
"Ground Canada's no-fly list"

For awhile, it looked as if Canada was not going to jump into the security theater business. If they were going to have a "no fly list," it would be carefully and cautiously implemented -- not a bloated grab bag of unlucky, but mostly harmless, individuals like the list the U.S. has compiled.

But apparently the colossus to the south has won the day. Canada will get its own no fly list after Transport Canada publishes final regulations in March.

OTTAWA -- Soon, this could happen to you: You're flying to another Canadian city and despite a confirmed reservation, the airport kiosk won't print your boarding pass.

You wait while an agent checks something in her computer. She disappears to make a call to a Transport Canada hotline. When she returns, you learn Transport Canada has refused you permission to board. Police might even appear and take you into custody.

Don Butler
CanWest News Service
Ottawa Citizen

Canada still promises that people denied the right to fly will have access to an appeal process and that the list will be carefully reviewed every 30 days. But Canadian officials dodge and duck about aspects of their new list. In particular, they won't say whether they'll give the names to U.S. authorities. Canadians remember the Mahar Arar case, in which an innocent Canadian was turned over to U.S. authorities and shipped off to be tortured. They don't want any repeats and don't trust the U.S.

"Despite their best efforts, there's almost certainly gong to be names that end up there that probably shouldn't be," said Reg Whitaker, who chaired a panel that reviewed the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority last year.

That propensity for error increases the chance of more Arar-type cases, says Wesley Wark, a terrorism expert at the University of Toronto. "I think there's no way around that if you're going to have a watchlist."

Canadians have seen far too much of the fiasco that is the U.S. no fly list to take this quietly. The Montreal Gazette brushes off government reassurances.

The overriding question is not whether to share such a list with Uncle Sam, but whether the list is legal and/or proper in the first place.

Nominally, the list will ground only those convicted of specified offences: terrorist activities; violent aviation crimes, including hijacking or air rage; and other violent offences. It's a sort of airborne dangerous-offenders list.

If it were confined to people convicted of those crimes, such a list would perhaps be understandable.

However, as Deisman argues, it appears the list really exists to target "people who are deemed too guilty to fly but not guilty enough to be charged with anything real."

Maher Arar was put in that category, though convicted of nothing, not even charged. To this day, the Canadian citizen, who was jailed and tortured in Syria, still can't get off the U.S. no-fly list. His only known offence: "flying while Arab."

... Canadians should not be dragooned into going down the same garden path. We should say no to no-fly lists.

Good luck neighbors!

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