A recently posted YouTube video has left some Canadians feeling puzzled regarding airport security procedures.
Entitled “Air Canada risks your safety, pandering to Muslim sensibilities”, the video was taken on July 11 in Montreal’s airport, and shows passengers on board Air Canada Flight 864 to London’s Heathrow Airport, as they walk onto the aircraft past the check-in staff.
First a woman whose face is covered is shown walking past the staff without presenting any identification as required. Behind her one man, likely a member of her family, presents check-in staff with all the passports belonging to the entire family.
The video then shows two Muslim girls walk through without being checked, followed by yet another face-covered woman who goes through unchecked.
The user who posted the clip mentioned that, “Yes, I did complain, both at the check-in desk and also when I was boarding the plane," but did not provide details on the results of the complaint, only stating in the comments section that the individuals in question “didn't get recalled for ID.” The clip has gotten responses ranging from people who were outraged at Air Canada staff for not properly checking the passengers to responses criticizing the poster for posting the clip.
Since 2006, Canada has taken measures to enhance the safety and security of air travellers. The Passenger Protect Program implemented in 2007 is an initiative aimed at identifying individuals “that may pose a threat to transportation and disrupt their ability to cause harm or threaten aviation” as Transport Canada’s website says. As part of the program airlines are required to compare passengers’ names against a list by Transport Canada before a boarding pass is issued.
Other measures taken by Canada to ensure the safety of air travellers have included working together with the RCMP to conduct extensive criminal background checks of workers who have access to secure areas at Canada’s airports. This past May, Canada announced a new initiative aimed at ensuring that air cargo shipments are resilient to threats of terrorism. The Air Cargo Security Program is a $95.7 million investment to be phased-in over five years and will ensure that companies who screen cargo have received thorough security checks and that all cargo screening is completed and verified at the highest standards using the most effective technologies.
Canada’s Transport Minister John Baird said at the time these measures were unveiled: “Our government is unwavering in our determination to keep all Canadians safe and secure. That is why, since 2006, we have been taking important and necessary steps to meet this goal. We must remember that terrorism is not just something that happens somewhere else to someone else. Canada must prepare and remain vigilant.”
Shalom Life contacted Air Canada's media relations department to inquire as to why the passengers were not carefully checked before boarding, whether the incident is being investigated, whether Air Canada has a policy by which individuals whose heads are covered will not be inspected by staff, and whether Air Canada would not inspect an individual should he or she request not to be inspected for religious reasons.
Air Canada’s Media Relations Department said the following in response: “Passenger security screening is the responsibility of CATSA, a federal government agency that performs passenger screening at Canadian airports. Airline passengers undergo multiple security checks before arriving at the boarding gate. For our part, a final check is made at the gate prior to boarding in order to confirm passengers getting on the flight. We comply with Transport Canada regulations requiring passengers to present government-issued photo ID before boarding. In addition, we have special procedures in place, and our agents are trained to verify photo ID in a private area away from other passengers, as required for religious or medical reasons.”
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life