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

  • Coast guard recommends removal of oil from wreck off Newfoundland coast

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- The Canadian Coast Guard is recommending full removal of the remaining oil from a ship that ran aground and sank off Newfoundland's Change Islands in 1985. Regional director Anne Miller says it is too early to say how much it will cost to remove the oil from the Manolis L. Source
  • Senior accused in wife's death not mentally fit to stand trial: psychiatrist

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY - A psychiatrist says an 85-year-old Calgary man accused of murdering his wife of 56 years is mentally unfit to stand trial. Siegfried van Zuiden was charged in October with second-degree murder after he called 911 and police officers found his 80-year-old wife, Audrey, dead in their home. Source
  • NATO flexes muscles in Lithuania — with an eye on Russia

    World News CBC News
    Troops from 11 NATO countries including the United States rehearsed battle skills in a snowy Lithuanian forest on Friday, and the leader of the Baltic state voiced confidence that U.S. commitment to Europe's defence would survive the election of Donald Trump as president. Source
  • Stolen Nazi concentration camp gate believed found in Norway

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- German police say the wrought iron gate to the Nazis' Dachau concentration camp that was stolen two years ago appears to have been found in western Norway. Bavarian police said Friday the gate, bearing the slogan "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work sets you free," was located in the Bergen area after authorities received an anonymous tip. Source
  • Cars line up to get into wildfire-ravaged Tennessee city

    World News CTV News
    GATLINBURG, Tenn. -- People in cars and trucks rolled into the wildfire-ravaged city of Gatlinburg on Friday to get a first look at what remains of their homes and businesses, and a mayor raised the death toll to 13, including a person who appeared to die of a heart attack while fleeing the flames. Source
  • Part-time work helps Canada add 10,700 jobs; jobless rate dips to 6.8%

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — The Canadian labour market unexpectedly added 10,700 net jobs last month and the unemployment rate slid to 6.8 per cent — but the latest numbers raise questions about the quality of the work. Statistics Canada’s November employment survey shows yet another monthly decline in the more-desirable category of full-time work — a figure more than offset by a gain in part-time jobs. Source
  • Drones to deliver to remote Canadian towns [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Residents of Pickle Lake are salivating at the thought of pizza delivery by drones. The end-of-the-road northern Ontario community is one of more than 1,000 isolated towns across the country that could be catered to by first-of-a-kind service drones by the end of next year. Source
  • Ohio State attacker buried amid shock from family over death

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Somali-born student who hurt nearly a dozen people in a car-and-knife attack at Ohio State University before a police officer quickly shot and killed him has been buried as his relatives remain stunned about his death. Source
  • Elderly Calgary man accused of killing wife medically unfit for trial, judge rules

    Canada News CBC News
    An 85-year-old Calgary man who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife has been declared unfit to stand trial. Audrey van Zuiden, who was 80, was found on Oct. 4 in the home she shared with Fred van Zuiden, her husband of 56 years. Source
  • Rape used for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, says UN team

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, Uganda -- Rape in South Sudan is "one of the tools being used for ethnic cleansing," a U.N. team of human rights investigators said Friday, adding that sexual violence in the East African nation "has reached epic proportions. Source