Canadian airport restrictions to stay for a while
New airport security restrictions introduced in response to an alleged bombing plot in the U.K. are here to stay for a while, said the president of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority at a news conference Friday.
Jacques Duchesneau said officials will be constantly re-evaluating the rules that require travellers to pack liquids and gels in their checked baggage on a daily basis, with regulations adjusted accordingly.
"Security is our priority number one, that comes first," he said. "Obviously we need to make sure the airplane environment will not suffer from the measures we put in place."
The alleged plot, which apparently targeted as many as 10 commercial flights, involved using liquid explosives smuggled in hand luggage.
Duchesneau said the security checks were running smoothly with no unusual flight delays reported at any Canadian airport.
He urged travellers to pack light over the coming days, stowing their liquids, gels and electronics in their stowed baggage.
CATSA does not have any equipment at screening points to detect the dangerous liquids officials suspected might be used in the alleged bomb plot, Duchesneau said. He reassured travellers, however, that the screening measures in place are adequate.
"There is no direct threat to Canadian passengers or people boarding a plane in Canada as of noon hour today," Duchesneau said.
He also revealed that CATSA was in the process of rolling out a new biometrics security card for all airport and airline security staff. Canada will be one of the first countries in the world to use the sophisticated new system, he said.
Canadian airport security still weak, says senator
But the head of the Senate's national security committee on Friday criticized the competence of Transport Canada, saying the country's airports are still vulnerable to attacks.
Senator Colin Kenny said new airport security restrictions banning all liquids and gels from carry-on luggage do not go far enough.
Kenny said officials should scrutinize airport and airline employees. Baggage handlers, caterers and maintenance crews, he said, can bring whatever they like on airplanes without being checked.
"The front door is firmly bolted and the back door is ajar and the windows on each side are wide open," Kenny said.
Kenny said Transport Canada has not addressed his concerns, which he said he brought to the agency nearly five years ago.
"We're not sure Transport Canada has the competence to do the job, given it has taken so long to move on these very simple features," he said.
Federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said the Conservative government is doing all it can to make Canadian airports safe.
"We are doing what it takes," Cannon said. "We are putting those additional layers of safety and security."