Despite announcing last month that Canada’s border security would focus its attention on identifying irregular or suspicious behaviour and not engage in racial or ethnic profiles, it seems once again the government is being called on to do more to ensure Canadians’ constitutional rights are being protected and dignity preserved when they choose to travel.
This week the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) released a revealing report containing two years’ worth of studies documenting the personal accounts of many that feel they were, without explanation, hassled by security at the border or altogether denied passage because they had been added to no-fly register or watchlists.
The ICLMG report suggests, amongst other things, that members of Arab and Muslim communities have had particular difficulty in their travels.
For example, a Montreal-area student named Hani Al Telbani was prevented from boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia in June 2008. In an independent review of its no-fly rosters, Transport Canada was urged to immediately remove Al Telbani’s named from and conduct a sweeping review of the no-fly register. However, the consultant’s findings went deeper. It seems the officer that issued the emergency direction to prevent Al Telbani from flying was never authorized to do so, and that subsequent decisions of an advisory group, including transport officials, the RCMP and CSIS, to keep Al Telbani on the register were made “without legal authority” or parliamentary scrutiny.
However, the ICLMG report also notes the increasing number of watchlists and databases that are being used to monitor North American travelers and how Canadians’ personal information is being shared with international government bodies without their knowledge or consent. The ICLMG report implores the government to conduct a full audit of the no-fly register, streamline how the borders are currently being regulated, as well as seriously consider the legal and Charter implications of the current regime.
One can be forgiven for asking why and how it is Canadians continue to find themselves in these situations when we have seen the serious consequences and torture that has resulted from second-rate intelligence and racial profiling. More than three years ago, Justice O’Connor released his report on Canada’s involvement in the rendition and torture of a fellow Canadian Maher Arar. Included in Justice O’Connor’s report were recommendations for increased and more centralized oversight of security border security and intelligence gathering and sharing so similar mistakes and abuses were not repeated in the future. And yet one need only read the ICLMG report to realize that racial profiling occurs every day consciously and subconsciously on major and minor scales with lasting negative effects.
Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Law I)