If you land on Canada’s “no-fly list,” good luck getting off. Just ask Hani Al Telbani. Five years after the Palestinian immigrant was famously denied a boarding pass at Montreal’s Trudeau airport, he is still fighting in court to clear his name and get on a plane.
Dino Peles is not a member of the no-fly club. But like Telbani, the 31-year-old Air Canada baggage handler has learned the same hard lesson: once Transport Canada declares you a potential danger, it’s almost impossible to change anyone’s mind—criminal record or no criminal record.
Like thousands of airline employees who work in restricted areas, Peles was issued a “transportation security clearance” in 2006 for his job at Toronto’s Pearson airport. But in 2011, when his file was due for a mandatory review, the feds noticed two blemishes, both related to marijuana. (In 2009, police found Peles in a parked car with $2,500 in cash and nearly $5,000 worth of weed; eight months later, authorities again charged him with possession for the purpose of trafficking after finding more illicit drugs in his vehicle.)
In both cases, charges were either dropped or withdrawn, leaving Peles with a technically clean record. Still, a Transport Canada advisory board erred on the side of caution, recommending that his security clearance be revoked because his past behaviour—conviction or not—suggests “he may be prone or induced to commit an act or assist or abet any person to commit an act that may unlawfully interfere with civil aviation.”
Peles appealed to the Federal Court (in one letter of support, a supervisor praised his “high integrity” and called him “an asset to the company”) but Justice Michael Manson sided with the government. The bright side? As the judge pointed out, Peles is still free “to work in non-secure areas or outside the airport.”