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Canada readies no-fly list for summer

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:05 p.m., March 1, 2007]

OTTAWA  — A senior government official told reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday that Canada plans to have in place a no-fly list for airline passengers by this summer.    

Marc Grégoire, assistant deputy minister with Transport Canada, made the comments after appearing before the Commons public safety committee where he spent most of his time trying to quell concerns about potential problems with the new program. 

Transport Canada announced the plan for the no-fly list in October. An advisory group will assess individuals on a case-by-case basis, based on  information provided by CSIS and the RCMP. The final decision on whose name will appear on the list will be left to the transport minister and the list will be updated every 30 days. 

Gregoire said unlike the problematic U.S. no-fly list, Canada's list will only include individuals who are involved in terrorist activities and could pose a threat to the plane. 

However, opposition and government MPs expressed concerns about  the process for Canadians who want to get off the list. 

According to Gregoire the government will not have to specifically tell individuals why their names are on the list because it's "an all encompassing assessment."

NDP MP Joe Comartin asked the official whether the government had learn any lessons from the Maher Arar affair? 

"You're just repeating the same things we have done so many times in the past," he said, adding that Transport Canada will be relying on secret information from foreign countries. 

"You're going to take information from outside the country."

Later when asked to explain what Transport Canada would tell people who ask why their name is on the list, Gregoire said, "If Osama bin Laden asks us why he's on the list we may tell him, 'It's because you represent a risk.'"

Bloc MP Serge Menard later told reporters that he is not a fan of no-fly lists and would feel safer as a passenger if there was greater security of the cockpit. 

Menard said it's impossible to make a "perfect list" and it's a potential problem that people won't be told specifically why they are on the list. 

"You don't know what to explain. Am I on the list before I made a trip to Pakistan? Or am I on the list because I know somebody who is on another list that I've have met who has come to my home and therefore they think I have a relationship with terrorist activities?"

Liberal MP Derek Lee, however, said he understands why Canada needs to have a list but said he also has concerns about the process. 

"If you are a citizen and you think you are improperly on the list you have no place to begin (to get off the list)." 

He said a system will have to be developed to deal with individuals who have this problem. 

Canada currently does not have a no-fly list. Canadian airlines that fly into the U.S. must screen their passengers against the U.S. no-fly list. 

The U.S. currently uses an ultra-secret no-fly list, which even members of Congress cannot access. The criteria for the list are not known. 

The CBS program 60 Minutes recently obtained a copy of the list and discovered that it consists of 40,000 names, including currently jailed former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and 14 of the 19 deceased 9/11 hijackers. 

:  Related Links

> Canada provides details of no-fly list 

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