Transport Canada’s big fat secret

Al Telbani is on the no-fly list, but how many others are there?


Transport Canada’s big fat secret

Canada’s “no-fly list” contains at least one name for sure: Hani Al Telbani. As Maclean’s first reported in September, the Concordia University student holds the dubious distinction of being the only person ever denied permission to board an airplane as a result of the screening program, and he is now fighting the federal government in court, demanding to know why authorities consider him an “immediate threat to aviation security.”

Al Telbani aside, the rest of the so-called “Specified Persons List” is a heavily guarded secret. Compiled by Transport Canada with the help of the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), it is the furthest thing from a public document. Only a select few officials have access, and if you’re on it, you won’t find out unless you actually show up at an airport and try to check in.

Ottawa won’t even reveal how many entries the list contains. Previous press reports have the figure at “between 500 and 2,000,” but when Maclean’s filed an Access to Information request for the precise number, the ministry’s response—one line—was no response at all: “There are as of 27 August 2008, ___ listed on the Specified Persons List.”

Apparently, releasing the number—not the names, just the number—could jeopardize Ottawa’s ability to keep our skies safe. How, exactly? A Transport Canada spokesman would only say that disclosing “the size of such a list would compromise our intelligence gathering and security efforts.”

The government has told the public how many potential terrorists CSIS is watching (294, as of 2006) and how many terrorist financing networks are operating in Canada (up to 39, as of last month). Yet the feds have decided that our security would be compromised if Canadians knew how many “imminent threats”—other than Hani Al Telbani—have been declared too dangerous to fly.


Transport Canada’s big fat secret

  1. I cant understand why everyone seems to feel that the guy is being discriminated against.. where theres
    smoke there is fire… I think the authorities are doing excellent work..

  2. The “no-fly” list is probably unconstitutional anyway. The people on the list have not been convicted of anything, and the evidence against them is too weak to support charges. In other words, they are innocent. Given that, the most that can be justified is an “enhanced security” list. Make certain that the suspicious characters are not taking weapons onto airplanes and there is no reason not to let them fly.
    BTW, richard b, such obvious terrorists as Senator Edward Kennedy got onto the U.S. no-fly list; do you think the Canadian list is likely to be any more reliable?

  3. If I am not allowed to get into an airplane I want to know the reason why. Or is this some sort of Kafkanian process?

  4. I find the entire concept of a no-fly list sickening. If you have enough evidence to say someone is a threat to an aircraft, surely you can charge them with something. Otherwise, let them fly. Freedom of movement, on any mode, should be a fundamental right.

    The mess that is the American No-Fly list should stand as a shining example of why this system is a bad idea.

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