A six-year-old boy was delayed again at Toronto Pearson International Airport today because he shares the same name as someone on the no-fly list, even though the Canadian government has told airlines they don't need to order additional screening for children under 18 who appear to be on such lists.
Syed Adam Ahmed was delayed for the second time in recent months on Friday, despite promises by the federal public safety minister to investigate why the child had been flagged as a travel risk. The incident was confirmed to CBC News by the boy's father, Sulemaan Ahmed.
The Markham, Ont., family said the delay, while aggravating, isn't as worrisome as the fact that the government and airlines haven't put a system in place to differentiate between a child and a potential threat who shares the same name.
Khadija Cajee, the boy's mother, said the problems began when she tried to check in online.
'He still is not afforded the same right to check in online as any other six-year-old child.' – Khadija Cajee, mother of Syed Adam Ahmed
"When I go to try to check in, it gives me a security warning stating that the status cannot be completed and to see an agent at the airport. And that, we know, is because he's been flagged because he's on the list," she said.
At the counter this morning, Cajee told the Air Canada agent her son was on the no-fly list.
Sulemaan Ahmed said the agent checked her computer and the family was cleared to fly.
"They did need to see his face, but they didn't need to make an additional security call to have him cleared for check-in, so one of those steps has been eliminated," said Cajee.
"He still is not afforded the same right to check in online as any other six-year-old child in this country is afforded, so he`s still being marginalized in that respect," she said.
After the check-in, Adam and his two siblings flew to Edmonton with their mother for a family wedding.
Air Canada 'obliged to comply' with no-fly lists
Air Canada said in a statement that it's aware of the issue and has recommended Adam's family use his Aeroplan number — which it calls a unique identifier — when checking him in on flights.
Otherwise, Air Canada said it is "obliged to comply with applicable laws and regulations, including the enforcement of security programs including so-called 'no-fly lists' compiled by governments."
Sulemaan Ahmed said his son's Aeroplan card has never consistently worked and called it "shameful" that Air Canada continues to "deflect responsibility for not following the law."
"Our six-year-old kid is on the no-fly list and no one is taking responsibility to make sure he's taken off the list," he said in a message to CBC News.
Additional screening not needed, Ottawa says
The family's problem came to the public's attention when Ahmed tried to take his son to the Winter Classic game on New Year`s Day in Boston. Ahmed snapped a picture of the computer screen showing Adam had been flagged on the "deemed high profile list."
The child had been flagged as a travel risk since he was a toddler.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale repeated Friday a statement made in early January that airlines do not need to order additional screening of children who are under 18.
The spokesperson said the minister has heard the family's concerns and is working on policies to differentiate people with the same names on the no-fly list and thanked Adam's family for advocating on these issues.