Thursday, September 27, 2007

Canadian no fly list after three months -- a round up

The Canadian no fly list went into operation in June -- and rapidly ran into similar problems and criticisms to those which dog the U.S. watch list.

First there were the Butts
Apparently Transport Canada is concerned that someone named "Alistair Butt" might try to bring down an airplane. The first two Alistair Butts who presented themselves to fly turned out to be a 10 year old from Saskatoon and a 15-year old from Ontario. [Pictured left. Photo by Jana Chytilova.] Neither seemed much threat to aviation. The Saskatchewan family was furious to hear the airline's proposed remedy:

Butt was on a list, labelled as a person of interest, said his dad, Usne Butt. ...

What is particularly galling, Major Butt said, is the suggestion from the airlines that perhaps it would be best to change the child's name.

Civil libertarians point out obvious flaws
With the U.S. list as an example, it was easy for concerned Canadians to focus on likely problems. Paul Berton spelled on the problems in the Edmonton Sun:

Just how much is domestic flight safety in peril? How good is the list, developed with the help of the RCMP and CSIS, and will it actually work? How else might it be used? What are the criteria for it?

It's not just racial profiling we should be concerned about, but bureaucratic bungling.

He wrote before the Butts' experience came to light.

The Victoria Times Colonist [some name for a paper!] honed in on what in the States would be called "due process" issues.

Canada's new no-fly list won't make air travel safer, but it will violate basic principles of justice and fairness. ...

Your name could be on the list already. The government won't allow you to check.

The result is that you could be presumed guilty of an offence serious enough to keep you from boarding an airplane without having the opportunity to hear the allegations against you, confront the accusers or provide evidence to clear your name.

But while you are denied access to the information, the government says it can be shared with foreign governments and agencies, exposing Canadians to a real risk of detention or harassment in other countries. ...

It's important to guard against terror attacks. But it's also important to remember that the purpose of the exercise is to protect our way of life and our values.

Privacy commissioners weigh in
Unlike the United States, Canada has government officials charged with protecting citizens' privacy. They called for suspension of the no fly list program.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart and the 12 provincial and territorial information and privacy commissioners and ombudsmen, meeting in Fredericton, unanimously endorsed the call to suspend the no-fly list yesterday. ...

They said the no-fly list involves the secretive use of personal information in a way that will "profoundly impact" privacy and other rights such as freedom of association and mobility rights.

Maher Arar knows about watch lists
To their considerable credit, Canadians are ashamed and angry that Canadian Maher Arar [pictured with his wife; CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand] was snatched up by U.S. authorities when in transit through New York and shipped off to Syria to be tortured based on false suspicions emanating from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada's FBI equivalent). The Canadian government has paid the Toronto resident $12 million in compensation. He is still on the U.S. no-fly list.

Recently Arar has been speaking out against the Canadian list.

"The security agencies are telling us, 'You should trust us,"' Arar told a group of university students Tuesday.

"My answer to that would be: 'Well, we've seen good examples at the inquiry where we trusted them'."

Documents from the Arar inquiry suggest Canada's spy agency knew he would be tortured in Syria, and then tried claiming national security as an excuse for keeping their involvement secret. ...

He says he's certain that the no-fly list will encounter problems and excesses - and that they will primarily affect Muslim Canadians. ...

"We don't know the names on those lists but it's a fact of life that after the events of 9-11 the Muslim community have been targeted.

"It's safe to assume that most of those names are names of people who have a Muslim background."

Most Canadians don't want to be pushed around by the angry colossus to the south. Their no fly list sure looks like a concession to the U.S. security theater charade.

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