‘No-fly’ watchdogs blasted – Privacy chief uncovers trouble with travel blacklist. A victimized Canadian author knows all about it
OTTAWA – It took months, but Montreal author Jaspreet Singh finally cleared his name and was cleared to fly.
Based in Calgary last year, Singh was suddenly hit with lengthy interrogations when he tried to board planes. An Air Canada staffer suggested he change his name.
Instead, fearful of further harassment, he grounded himself, skipped Toronto’s Book Expo Canada and Luminato festivals, and mounted a letter-writing campaign seeking to be removed from whatever “no-fly list” he was on, says his Montreal publisher, Simon Dardick.
Singh, a Canadian citizen born in India, is in Delhi right now on a trip. He was never a security risk, says Dardick. “It was another J. Singh.”
But it was “a scary thing,” Dardick said. “This is a big country. It’s hard not to fly.”
For Singh, and others like him, there is little comfort in a new report by Canada’s federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.
Stoddart slammed the officials who enforce and oversee Canada’s secretive “Passenger Protect” program and its blacklist of air travellers deemed a threat to aviation security.
The top Transport Canada bureaucrat who is in charge of placing people on the list did little more than rubber-stamp recommendations from a three-person advisory committee, Stoddart said.
She found that, overall, Transport Canada handled personal information carefully and disclosed personal data “selectively to officials who actually need it.”
But she also found that the technology to share “no-fly” orders with air carriers has not been certified as secure; the smaller air carriers, some of which use paper lists, are not required to report breaches of privacy; and there is no review of those carriers’ compliance by Transport Canada.
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