Canadian air security jeopardized: senator

CBC News reports 1,100 uniform items belonging to Canadian security personnel were lost or stolen in 9 month period.

Documents obtained by CBC News show that 1,127 uniform items belonging to Canadian airport screeners were lost or stolen in a nine-month period.

Nearly a quarter of those items had the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) logo on them.

Among the missing items are 91 metal shields that act as security badges, which worries Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the chair of the Senate's national security and defence committee.

Kenny argues that Canadian travellers aren't getting the security they need, – a sentiment echoed by terrorism expert Peter St. John, from the University of Manitoba.

"If you have a uniform and you have the right credentials then you've got access to do anything you want in the airport," says St. John. "You can almost board a plane at will and hijack it or anything. Security is just poor."

A parliamentary investigation found some of the missing uniforms as auction items on EBay.

Kenny says the problem isn't restricted merely to these items. He says pilots' uniforms have gone missing as have police uniforms.

"It's a serious problem," says Kenny, who's written two reports on Canadian airport security in which he states that Canadian airports are riddled with organized crime and security of ground workers is conducted at random.

Kenny maintains that mail continues to enter vulnerable aircraft holds unscreened. He also says that much of the passenger baggage that goes in the same hold is never searched.

CATSA insists that air security is tight in Canada, dismissing the missing uniform situation as a minor incident.

"Uniforms alone don't provide access to restricted areas at airports," says Kevin McGarr, vice-president, strategy, at CATSA. He says the federal agency has measures in place that motivate the private firms that provide screening operations to safeguard their uniforms.

"There are monetary incentives for appropriately meeting our expectations," says McGarr. If those expectations are not met, it puts the service provider at a disadvantage at performance review time, says McGarr.

Canada's auditor general is reviewing CATSA's effectiveness and is running undercover tests on screening personnel.