McLellan says data-collection on airline passengers awaits passage of bill
Date: Sunday, February 01 2004
Topic: Canadian Politics
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan meets reporters in Washington Friday, during a joint news conference with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, not shown. Â
Canada will be able to collect information about airline passengers on domestic and outgoing flights to identify security risks after the Public Security Act is passed, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said Friday.
Right now, officials only screen arriving air travellers.
"It's very important for us to get C-17, which provides us with the legal authority to go further," McLellan said in an interview following meetings with U.S. officials.
We're going to look at the whole area of aviation security. . .and the kinds of information we think can be usefully collected."
Similiar plans for U.S. domestic flights have caused an uproar. Civil liberties groups and airlines are worried about the personal information that will be used to colour code each passenger's perceived threat level and whether racism will play a part.
It appears Canada is prepared to follow the same general aviation security procedures as the United States. McLellan did not say how passengers inside Canada would be rated.
"You need to be very, very careful about the nature of the information being collected and its use," she said.
"Here in the U.S., they have the same concerns and will confront the same issues."
Canada's current system for incoming travellers was to include a lot more information that would be kept for up to six years.
After months of public complaints, led by Canada's privacy commissioner, the database's scope was limited. However, the program will be expanded to include people arriving by train, bus and boat.
Word that U.S. officials will go ahead with their air security project came just days after the U.S. started fingerprinting and photographing people from many countries who require visas to enter.
The new US. airline system, to start this summer, will collect passenger names, addresses, telephone numbers, birthdates and itineraries and check them against crime and commercial databases.
Passengers coded as red will not be able to board a flight. Yellow indicates the need for a search and questioning and green is standard screening.
Civil rights groups said the system will disproportionately flag as security risks some minorities and the poor who may have more holes in their commercial information.
Airlines, which have been far from keen to volunteer information on passengers, will be forced by the government to submit it.
U.S. activists are raising many of the same concerns as their Canadian counterparts - especially that the information could be used to pursue any type of suspected criminal, even deadbeat dads, or be used by other federal departments for such things as routine income tax investigations.
U.S. and Canadian officials have yet to reach agreement on sharing information about passengers travelling between the two countries, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said after meeting with McLellan.
"We spent several months working with our colleagues in the European Union to get advanced passenger information," he told a briefing.
"Recognizing privacy laws, we understand that a lengthy and appropriate discussion will have to be held (with Canada)."
Said McLellan: "Clearly we want to work with our American counterparts. We want to understand the details of and the timing of that program as it rolls out."
Beyond aviation, the next step in U.S.-Canada security co-ordination is protecting the Great Lakes and thousands of waterways linking the two countries, Ridge said Friday.
The U.S. has not finished compiling a master list of suspected terrorists and Ridge has not given a time frame.
McLellan also met Friday with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice-President Dick Cheney.