Sunday September 10, 2017

Two parents fight to remove their child's name from Canada's 'no-fly list'

Sulemaan Ahmed and Khadija Cajee, parents of now 8-year-old Syed Adam Ahmed, who is on Canada's 'no fly' list.

Sulemaan Ahmed and Khadija Cajee, parents of now 8-year-old Syed Adam Ahmed, who is on Canada's 'no fly' list. (Courtesy of Sulemaan Ahmed)

Listen 10:03

It's been a problem travelling with Sulemaan's son, Syed Adam Ahmed, since he was a baby. That's because Adam — who is eight years old now — is on Canada's Deemed High Profile list... also known as a 'no-fly list'.

"We have to go to the gate, two to three hours before [we fly] and then they have to call and confirm and clear you. Yah, sometimes it's a 5 minute delay and other times it's hours," says Sulemaan Ahmed.

At one point, on a vacation to Mexico, the family was taken to the side and their passports confiscated by Mexican authorities when Adam was 18 months old.

"We were freaking out, especially because they weren't even answering our questions...And at the time we didn't know that [Adam] was flagged." says Khadija Cajee, Adam's mom.

Sulemaan and Khadija's family became one of the faces of this issue when in 2015, Sulemaan tweeted a screenshot he took of an airport agent's computer, confirming his son is on the list. Their story became international news.

"But when they get, older there are question marks around their innocence because they don't look so cute and little anymore..." - Khadija Cajee

The family has been working hard to advocate on behalf of their son and get his name off of the list. 

They are a part of a larger group of families — No Fly List Kids — trying to clear their children.

Sulemaan says that from their group alone, there are about 100 children flagged as flight risks.

"It's not an issue of race or religion as far as we have experienced...But definitely post 9/11 we've come to accept that this is just the lay of the land…" says Khadija. 

Having said that, Khadija and Sulemaan want this dealt with now so they don't have to worry about Adam's future.

"As they get older the security screenings become increasingly invasive," says Khadija. 

"So, in the case of my son, he's still little. We can advocate for him. We can defend him. He's obviously innocent...But when they get older, there are question marks around their innocence because they don't look so cute and little anymore."

Sulemaan, who was a flight attendant for four years, says this isn't a matter of facing a few inconveniences for the sake of national security. 

"[W]e're not questioning security...The security is actually bad. The data is bad. 

"I think it's a part of education. So [the] people [who] say it's just an inconvenience, I don't think they see the broader issues because then years later, when something serious happens and then you have to pay out a lot more money, well, we could have prevented this."

When Piya brings up the case of Maher Arar, the family goes quiet. 

"This is actually the potential for what could happen if we keep going down this route and we don't want that to happen again, obviously," says Khadija.