Extra airport security screening for under-18s not needed, public safety minister says

Following reports about toddlers who have been flagged on no-fly lists, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says airlines shouldn't subject anyone under the age of 18 to additional security-screening measures.

Ralph Goodale’s statement comes after reports of toddlers on no-fly list

Ralph Goodale, the federal public safety minister, has said he'll investigate the case of six-year-old Syed Adam Ahmed, right, whose name appears to be on a travel security risk list. (Canadian Press/CBC)

Following reports about toddlers who have been flagged on no-fly lists, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says airlines shouldn't subject anyone under the age of 18 to additional security-screening measures.

"Public Safety Canada officials have now contacted air carriers to clarify the application of the existing Secure Air Travel Regulations, emphasizing to them that additional security screening validation is not required for individuals under the age of 18," Goodale said in a written statement Thursday evening.

"We have heard the concerns of those who have gone through additional security screening that this situation can cause confusion and feelings of stigmatization," Goodale said.

Goodale also said his department is exploring possible amendments to regulations that would make it easier to differentiate people who have similar or the same names as others listed on the no-fly list. The minister said his department "is committed to public consultations" on the program.

Kids on no-fly list

The statement comes after Goodale promised to review the case of a six-year-old Markham, Ont., boy named Syed Adam Ahmed, whose parents say has been flagged on a no-fly list since he was a toddler.

His father, Sulemaan Ahmed, snapped a picture on an airport computer screen showing his son had been flagged on what's known as a "deemed high profile" list when he tried to take him to the NHL Winter Classic game between the Canadiens and Bruins on New Year's Day in Boston.

Since then, the parents of two other Canadian-born boys — both under three years old — have come forward saying their children are on no-fly lists and have faced airport security delays as a result.

Ahmed, and his wife, Khadija Cajee, said they never got a straight answer from staff at the Transport and Public Safety departments about exactly what list their son might be on — or whether he is even on it.

Instead, it was an Air Canada agent who tipped them off when Adam was just a toddler, his mother said.

Canada's no-fly list, officially called the Passenger Protect Program, is maintained by Public Safety Canada. 

The government created the first no-fly list in 2007, partly in response to U.S. security concerns about Canadian flights passing through American airspace, University of Victoria political science professor Colin Bennett told CBC News this week.

Public Safety acknowledges on its website that "passengers who have the same name (or similar name) as a person listed under the Passenger Protect Program" may experience delays at check-in.

It's unclear what implications Goodale's statement about additional security measures would have for children on "deemed high profile" lists. 

Blurred line between security and personal liberties

In a statement issued Thursday, the family of Adam Ahmed said they met with Markham-Stouffville's MP, Health Minister Jane Philpott, who told them she brought their concerns to Goodale.

Last night, the family tweeted both that Goodale had contacted them directly about their concerns and that they "are happy to provide any assistance to find resolution."

"It has been frustrating to see the line between national security and personal liberties blurred over time and to see this issue impact so many families," Ahmed and Cajee said in the statement.

"We are heartened to have personal support from a cabinet minister who is taking this issue very seriously, and we look forward to keeping in touch with her about it and following up on the progress into the investigation," they added.

They also said they've received no response from Air Canada.


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