Families celebrating $81M in budget to fix the no-fly list system

Tuesday's federal budget socks away $81.4 million over five years, beginning for 2018-2019, and $14 million ongoing to rejig the system that leads to Canadians being put on the so-called no-fly list.

Federal money will create 'a rigorous centralized screening model'

Adam Ahmed poses for a photo on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2016. Ahmed, now 8, has been repeatedly flagged at the airport because his name matches one on a security list. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

It's a welcome end of an era for Khadija Cajee, Sulemaan Ahmed and their family.

The couple, who live in the Greater Toronto Area, say their eight-year-old son, Adam, has been flagged as a travel risk since he was a toddler. His name matches with someone on Canada's so-called no-fly list, which has resulted in years of extra hassle and delays at airports. 

A group they belong to, No Fly List Kids, has been pushing for the federal government to reform the system ever since they went public with their story in 2016.

They've asked for a redress mechanism, like the one in place in the United States, that uses dates of birth and other information to remedy cases of mistaken identity.

Tuesday's federal budget socks away $81.4 million over five years, beginning for 2018-2019, and the $14 million ongoing to rejig the system. The funding will be delivered to the Canada Border Services Agency, Public Safety Canada and Transport Canada.

  The budget said the money will be used to develop "a rigorous centralized screening model" as well as a redress system for legitimate passengers caught up in the system.

"The enhanced program will help ensure that privacy and fairness concerns are addressed, while keeping Canadians safe," notes the budget. 

Members of No Fly List Kids were on hand for the budget reveal in Ottawa.

"What Canadian families have gone through in the last 11 years is hopefully now coming to an end," they wrote in a statement. 

  "The purpose of this advocacy was to represent not just children, but people of all ages and from all walks of life who have been impacted by the flaws in the current system.... These shortcomings negatively impact the overall security and rights of innocent Canadians, and could not be allowed to continue unfixed."

The group has lobbied MPs from all parties for support and has made multiple trips to Ottawa to make its case. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said last fall that a redress system modelled on the American system could be in place as early as 2018, but the budget doesn't include an updated date.

"We trust that the government has done its due diligence and have arrived at a figure that it deems appropriate in order to adequately address this problem," they said.

Government officials have never said how many people are affected by the no-fly list.