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

  • What are prop guns and how are they dangerous? Alec Baldwin incident raises concerns

    World News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Firearms experts say it is rare for someone to be killed from a prop gun while filming a movie or TV show as a weapons master or armourer is mandated to be on set to ensure everyone's safety, in addition to providing rigorous training and gun handling to actors beforehand. Source
  • Not the time to 'freely go wherever,' says Tam as non-essential travel advisory lifts

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canadians should carefully weigh any future decisions on taking foreign trips even though the federal government has lifted a global advisory asking them to avoid non-essential travel, health officials cautioned Friday. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said the government would be providing more specific information about the severity of COVID-19 in various countries to help Canadians decide where they should consider travelling. Source
  • U.S. Supreme Court doesn't block Texas abortion law, sets hearing

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court is not immediately blocking the Texas law that bans most abortions, but has agreed to hear arguments in the case in early November. The justices said Friday they will decide whether the federal government has the right to sue over the law. Source
  • Health-care worker fired for drinking can't challenge termination using Human Rights Code: Supreme Court

    Canada News CBC News
    A Manitoba health-care worker who was fired from her job for drinking alcohol cannot challenge her termination under her province's Human Rights Code, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled. The ruling sided with the employer's argument that disputes between a unionized employee and an employer on an issue covered by a collective agreement, can only be settled by a labour arbitrator working with both parties. Source
  • Youth arrested in fatal stabbing of Montreal teen boy outside his school

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Montreal police have made an arrest into the stabbing death of a 16-year-old boy outside his school on Monday. In a news release issued at noon Friday, police said they arrested a youth and say that he is expected to be charged with second-degree murder and conspiracy. Source
  • Ontario's COVID-19 case counts expected to remain stable as long as public health measures are not lifted

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario's daily COVID-19 case counts are expected to remain stable over the next month despite an increase in social contacts, newly released modelling shows, but only if public health measures are not lifted. The new data was released by the province's Science Advisory Table late Friday morning. Source
  • Sen. Josée Forest-Niesing hospitalized in Sudbury, Ont., for COVID-19

    Canada News CBC News
    Sen. Josée Forest-Niesing of Sudbury is in hospital in the northern Ontario city for COVID-19. Forest-Niesing, 56, is double vaccinated and was admitted to Health Sciences North in the northern city, her office said. No one in her family has tested positive for COVID-19, a statement said, adding it's uncertain how she was exposed to the virus. Source
  • Robert Durst charged with 1982 murder of wife Kathie Durst

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Millionaire real estate scion Robert Durst has been charged in suburban New York City with the death of his former wife, Kathie Durst, who vanished in 1982, authorities confirmed Friday. A state police investigator filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday at a town court in Lewisboro, New York, accusing Durst of second-degree murder. Source
  • Two men arrested in death of Prabhjot Singh Katri in Truro, NS.: Police

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX - Police in Truro, N.S. have arrested two men in relation to the homicide investigation of Prabhjot Singh Katri last month. On Thursday, officers say they arrested Dylan Robert MacDonald, 21, of Valley, Colchester County, N.S. Source
  • Elephants without tusks evolve quickly due to ivory poachers

    World News CBC News
    A hefty set of tusks is usually an advantage for elephants, allowing them to dig for water, strip bark for food and joust with other elephants. But during episodes of intense ivory poaching, those big incisors become a liability. Source