Thousands flagged by Canada's new air passenger screening system

OTTAWA - Canada's new security system for scrutinizing people who arrive by airplane singled out more than 2,300 passengers for closer examination during a recent three-month period, the federal border agency says.

See Full Article

The Canada Border Services Agency says the travellers - flagged for possible links to terrorism or serious crime - represented a tiny fraction of the millions who flew into the country.

Still, privacy and civil liberties watchdogs want to know more about the border agency's so-called scenario-based targeting system to ensure individual rights are not being trampled.

The agency has implemented the targeting system, already used by the United States, as part of Canada's commitment to co-operate with Washington under the 2011 continental security pact known as the Beyond the Border initiative.

Commercial airlines are legally bound to provide Canada's border agency with specific information about passengers flying to Canada, including name, birthdate, citizenship, seat number and other details.

The border agency has long used the information to assess people for risk, allowing officials to zero in on those with high scores for additional attention upon landing.

The new scenario-based scheme uses elaborate number-crunching, or Big Data analytics, to reveal patterns in the information provided by air carriers - a method the border agency considers more efficient and accurate.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is pressing the border agency to explain the program's rationale and build in safeguards to protect individual liberties. Travellers may be targeted if they fit the general attributes of a group due to traits they cannot change such as age, gender, nationality, birthplace, or racial or ethnic origin, he warns.

In his recently released annual report, Therrien said "it could allow the operator to, for example, search for all males aged between the ages of 18-20 who are Egyptian nationals and who have visited both Paris and New York."

The border agency declined to make anyone available to discuss the project. In written answers to questions, the agency said scenarios are "a generic set of indicators" that flow from analysis of intelligence, enforcement, trends and other information to identify passengers who "may pose a higher risk" due to concerns about national security, smuggling of contraband such as drugs, or illicit migration.

When a person matches a scenario, a targeting officer conducts a review of the case to confirm or dismiss the risk. "If the risk is confirmed, a target is issued for the person to be intercepted upon arrival at the port of entry," the border agency said.

During the first quarter of 2015-16, 2,350 air travellers were targeted, representing 0.3 per cent of the more than 7.5 million people flying into Canada, according to border agency figures.

The agency regularly conducts reviews of the scenarios to ensure their "effectiveness and proportionality," the agency added.

Canadians don't know enough about the criteria being used, said Monia Mazigh, national co-ordinator of the Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. "Why do we need to do it?"

Mazigh wonders whether the border agency has scientific studies to show the new techniques will make Canada safer, or if it is simply following in American footsteps.

"It's very important for Canadians to know that."

Therrien's office has urged the border agency to be more transparent by fleshing out descriptions of the kinds of scenarios that might be used to identify potentially high-risk travellers.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, the cabinet member responsible for the border agency, said in a recent interview that Therrien's concerns would be factored into a coming review of anti-terrorism legislation and related security issues.

"We take his arguments very seriously, and he will be one person among many that we consult very closely to make sure that we are getting all of the provisions here correct."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Moroccan premier forms government, ending 5-month crisis

    World News CTV News
    RABAT, Morocco -- Morocco's new Prime Minister Saadeddine El Othmani has succeeded in building a governing coalition, ending a five-month political deadlock after just eight days in office. El Othmani, 61, of the Islamist Party for Justice and Development, or PJD, announced Saturday in a press conference in Rabat that an "agreement has been reached" with six political parties to form a coalition government. Source
  • Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 police officers

    World News CTV News
    BENI, Congo -- A Congolese militia group has decapitated 42 policemen after ambushing them in an increasingly violent region where the U.N. is searching for missing American and Swedish investigators, a local official said Saturday. Source
  • Suspect in fatal shooting on Las Vegas Strip surrenders after standoff

    World News CBC News
    The suspect in a fatal shooting on the Las Vegas Strip on Saturday surrendered to police after barricading himself inside a bus. The standoff began after a report of shots fired on Las Vegas Boulevard in the heart of the Strip. Source
  • Suspect shooting at passing trucks on B.C. highway: RCMP

    Canada News CTV News
    PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -- RCMP say they've received numerous calls from truck drivers reporting that someone shot at their vehicles on a B.C. highway. Police say the incidents occurred over an eight-hour period starting Friday night on Highway 97 between Houston and 100 Mile House in the province's central and northern Interior. Source
  • 1 dead on Vegas Strip shooting, gunman barricaded on bus

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- A gunman barricaded himself inside a bus Saturday along the Las Vegas Strip after a shooting that left one person dead, officials said. The attack prompted a partial closure of the busy boulevard. Source
  • Security, parking, garbage irk Ivanka Trump's D.C. neighbours

    World News CBC News
    ?Residents of a posh Washington neighbourhood say Ivanka Trump and her family don't make for very good neighbours, taking up much of the parking on an already crowded street and leaving trash bags at the curb for days. Source
  • Liberals must sell budget to premiers after 'challenging' health talks

    Canada News CBC News
    Liberal MPs stuck around Ottawa on a rare Saturday to hammer out a plan to sell their recent budget to the public in the coming weeks, but the government also will have to move past the bruising experienced during the health accord negotiations to get the premiers on board. Source
  • Elderly couple flying to Michigan taken to wrong gate, end up in N.Y.

    World News Toronto Sun
    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A 96-year-old woman and an 89-year-old man were wheeled to the wrong gate at a South Florida airport and ended up on a flight to upstate New York instead of Michigan. Helen Wheeker and her husband, George Nobel, ended up Ogdensburg, N.Y. Source
  • Self-driving Uber SUV hits vehicle in Arizona

    World News Toronto Sun
    TEMPE, Ariz. — Officials say a self-driving Uber SUV was operating on its own when it was struck by another vehicle making a left turn at an intersection in Arizona, where the company is testing autonomous vehicles. Source
  • Woman ordered to return dog after taking off with pair of pooches post-breakup

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- A woman who took off with two dogs she had shared with her ex-boyfriend has been ordered to return one of the pooches after a bitter ownership dispute. Matthew MacDonald told a Nova Scotia small claims court that he purchased the Yorkshire terriers while he was living with his "on-again, off-again" girlfriend Brittany Pearl in Fort McMurray, Alta. Source