Canada to redress complaints of children on no-fly list

Up to 2,000 Canadians, among them children, are believed to be on the no-fly list.

    The families of children on the no-fly list have campaigned for their removal [File: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters]
    The families of children on the no-fly list have campaigned for their removal [File: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters]

    Toronto, Canada - The families of children whose names are on Canada's no-fly list are "cautiously optimistic" after Ottawa has set up a review office to investigate complaints about the list and any errors on it.

    Canada has established an Inquiries Office "to better deal with false name matches" on its no-fly list, known as the Passenger Protect Programme, the Canadian government announced earlier this month.

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    That is welcome news for Khadeeja Cajee, whose seven-year-old son, Syed Adam Ahmed, has faced delays at airports and additional security checks since he was a toddler because his name is on the list.

    "Now that we have this process in place it gives us a little bit of peace of mind," Cajee told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.

    "Previously, I would have worried that when he turned 18 or when he was an adult and he wanted to travel by himself … how much hassle would he have to go through just to make it through security?"

    Ahmed's case gained international attention last December when the youngster was delayed as he attempted to board a flight to the US with his father, Sulemaan Ahmed, to attend a hockey game.

    That's when the family first got confirmation that their son was on the "Deemed High Profile" list. They have since led a campaign to have their son and 44 other Canadian children - dubbed the "No-Fly List Kids" - removed from the list.

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    The new system will allow individuals whose names match those on the no-fly list to get a unique identification number to use when buying a plane ticket to avoid delays at the airport.

    The changes are under way, but the Canadian government said they could take up to 18 months to fully implement.

    Up to 2,000 Canadians are believed to be on the no-fly list, but up until this point, Canadians had no channel through which they could direct complaints or request that their names be removed.

    "Eliminating false positives in airport security screening is complex, but we are committed to a long-term solution through a domestic redress system," Canada's Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, said in a statement.

    'Equal and fair opportunity'

    Cajee said she is waiting to see what the final changes to Canada's no-fly list will look like, and said she is looking forward to her son having the ability to travel freely.

    "I'm cautiously optimistic that he will have an equal and fair opportunity to travel just like any other innocent person should have the right to do," she said.

    In March, the Canadian government also announced the creation of a Canada-US Redress Working Group, which would allow both countries to share information to tackle errors on the list.

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    Ottawa has admitted that having the same or a similar name to individuals on the US no-fly lists has resulted in delays and difficulty flying for innocent Canadians. In some cases, Canadians have faced problems flying within the country because of their inclusion on the US no-fly list.

    Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has represented individuals on the US "terrorist" watch list, a component of which is on the US no-fly list.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Abbas said that the US already shares information from its federal "terrorist" watch list - which has hundreds of thousands of names on it - with dozens of foreign countries, including Canada.

    "It appears, in my experience, [that] if you have a watch-listing issue in the US, you'll have a watch-listing issue in Canada, as well," Abbas said.

    Abbas said that even if Canada resolves the problems with its domestic no-fly list, there are no guarantees that other countries with access to that information will do the same. That means that being placed on the list can have long-standing consequences.

    "There is no technical fix to the watch list; it just needs to be ended," Abbas said. "I hope that Canada doesn't follow the United States' terrible example in creating an oppressive system that actually makes us less safe."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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