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Canada's "No-Fly List" Highlights A Need For Political Courage

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It has now been five months since we started hearing and reading about the Canadian kids affected by additional security screening measures when they try to board a plane, and unfortunately, the situation hasn't improved much since.

Adam Ahmed, a 6-year-old boy, a hockey fan of the "Montreal Habs", almost missed his flight in December 2015, because his name was on the "No-Fly" list, apparently similar to a "suspected terrorist." In other words, Adam Ahmed is a "false positive," a person who shouldn't be on the Passenger Protect Program (PPP), but for unknown reasons, he is on it.

At that time, his mother, Khadija Cajee, who took the lead to denounce the situation imposed on her son for many years, was joined by few families with similar shocking stories regarding their infant, toddler or teenager, stopped before boarding a plane and subject to extra security measures, with all the humiliation and stigma surrounding it and then finally let go with the high prospect of a repeated scenario each time they travel.

Under the Conservative government, none of these stories were disclosed. Probably, many of the parents didn't have any hope of change by telling their stories and demanding answers, or they were scared to speak out, as the political climate was quiet heavy.

But, after the Liberals were elected, the political discourse changed and a lot of hope has been felt by many of these parents.

Today, there are 40 families who came forward and are demanding that their kids' names are removed from the No-Fly List. Unfortunately, the government response seems to be slow, shy and somehow confusing.

As a human rights advocate, my position is that the "No-Fly List" or the PPP, has never been proven as an effective tool to enhance the security of Canadians. We have never seen any numbers of attacks or plots prevented because of the PPP.

Moreover, the program remains opaque and without any accountability, with strong indication that it is based on racial profiling rather then evidence.

Minister Ralph Goodale promised at the March 10, 2016 Leaders' Summit, held between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama, that both countries would create a Working Group to tackle the redress issue of the "No-Fly List", improve its transparency and allow the passengers to deal with their cases in more efficient ways.

Two days ago, Minister Goodale announced that the Redress Working Group has been formed and up running but concretely we don't know whether Adam Ahmed and the 39 other kids or more would be removed from the list or no.

Interestingly, we learned that Minister Ralph Goodale, puts the blame of the technological aspect of the "No-Fly List", saying that our Canadian database "was designed to sort of piggyback " the airline computer systems and that implementing an independent database system run by the Canadian government would take money and efforts. This newly disclosed fact about the Canadian version of the "No-Fly List" was never invoked previously as one of the problems inherent to the "No-Fly List".

Instead, the reason often implicitly suggested was that the Americans might be responsible for those situations as it was at some point strongly encouraged that the families contact the US homeland office and inquire about the possibility that their kids are on the US list and how to "de-list" them.

This announcement by Minister Goodale would be the first time Canada acknowledged that these mistakes are solely Canadian problems and consequently they should be swiftly and strongly dealt with.

Now that this bilateral group is up and running, it would be crucial that a redress system should be implemented as soon as possible. The US. have one already, so why not Canada. A redress process that is strong and reliable is necessary. A redress process that first would allow all the kids affected by these senseless measures to remove their names and travel freely with no hassle.

But moreover, the redress process should be open for all Canadians who have been denied traveling. These Canadians need to know the reasons behind such listing and should be able to challenge these decisions. The Minister shouldn't have the discretionary judgment to keep any Canadian on such list, as it is the case today.

Minister Ralph Goodale promised a parliamentary oversight as a way to find a fine balance between security and human rights. Clearly, this is not enough as we can see today how every aspect of our lives is affected by security measures.

For instance regarding this issue, Transport Canada and Canada Borders Service Agency, are both totally out of the loop. A strong integrated review mechanism that can independently launch joint investigation between the agencies for similar cases to detect the fault lines and find out the wrongs, is more than needed; it is a must.

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