Garneau imposes new air security measures, but won't say what or why
Opposition says Canadians can't help make skies safer if they don't know what they're looking for
Transport Minister Marc Garneau says the federal Liberal government has imposed new airline security measures on certain Canada-bound flights — but he's providing precious few other details.
Garneau made the announcement today after the government's weekly cabinet meeting.
He says the measures will ensure greater security on flights coming to Canada "from certain countries," but is saying little else.
Garneau says the measures will be in place until further notice.
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The decision comes after the U.S. and Britain last month moved to prohibit certain electronic devices from airline cabins on flights originating from some countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Canada has not followed suit on that measure, and Garneau says such devices continue to be permitted on airline cabins.
He says the latest decision is based on the government's "evaluation of risk" and that similar measures have been put in place in past years on flights from other continents.
"I did put in place some measures to increase security for flights coming from certain countries where the destination was Canada, and those measures have now been put in place to ensure greater security for our air passengers," Garneau said.
"I'm not in a position to tell you from where for obvious security reasons, and I'm not in a position to tell you specifically the measures either, and you will understand that for security reasons we don't talk about these things, but we have, following our analysis, put in place additional measures."
The Canadian middle way
Wesley Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in security and terrorism, says the secrecy around the government's move is "slightly bizarre."
Wark said he wonders how much of Garneau's announcement is "security theatre."
"They're trying to find a kind of clever way to satisfy their own, perhaps lesser, security threat perception, but at the same time satisfy their allies that they're taking it all seriously and they're doing something," Wark said.
"It's a kind of a Canadian middle way, fairly sly. But...it's at the cost of some degree of transparency."
Tony Clement, the Conservatives' public safety critic, also questioned the government's efforts.
"It seems like there is a lot of sound and fury, but whether it signifies nothing or something, none of us can judge because we're not given any kind of detail," he said.
"You have to allow citizens of this country to know what the threat is, to be on the lookout for what the threat is and to be assisting the government to make sure that there is safety in our airports and airways, and we're not getting any of that from the government right now," he added.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the move was based on evidence, but offered no details. He did not answer directly when asked if the measures were prompted by a specific threat.
"We take all the necessary precautions to make sure that Canadians are kept safe in all of their activities, both within the country and travel around the world," he said.
"We don't take steps in a capricious way. Canadians need to be assured that everything that needs to be done to safeguard their safety and the safety of air travel is in fact being done."
Emirates Airline confirmed to CBC News that standard security screening implemented at the boarding gate for its flights to Canada has been "enhanced" following guidelines from the Canadian government on Monday.
"There is no restriction on the carriage of electronic devices. Passengers travelling from Dubai International Airport to Canada should allow additional time at the gate," a spokesman for the airline said.
With files from the CBC's Tom Parry