National research initiative on traveller surveillance and “no-fly’ lists

Posted by admin on Jun 19th, 2008

Press Release,  June 18

Several civil liberties groups and major labour unions are launching an innovative project aimed at documenting the impacts of the no-fly lists and other government watch lists on our civil rights, privacy rights and mobility rights. “Over the past year, we realized that we needed to document the growing surveillance of travellers,” said Roch Tassé, coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG). “We were hearing too many troubling stories of people caught in the growing web of watch lists. The stories that have come to light may just be the tip of the iceberg,” said Maureen Webb of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

The research project is led by the 38-member pan-Canadian coalition Рthe International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Polaris Institute, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), and the Qu̩bec-based Ligue des droits et libert̩s.

“We are seeing both workers and travellers subjected to increased surveillance, invasive security measures and limitations applied to mobility and privacy rights. It is really part of a National INsecurity agenda, and doesn’t necessarily result in greater sense of safety and wellbeing for anyone. No-fly lists, watch lists, the sharing of vast amounts of personal data, and questionable security assessments are practices that demand more public debate,” said Karl Flecker, the CLC’s National Director of the Human Rights Department.

The ICLMG wants to hear stories from travellers and their encounters with airlines, transport and border officials in Canada and the U.S. The website explains the goals of the project, and allows people to tell their stories. Individuals can also contact the project via a toll-free number or by mail. The ICLMG and its partners will not release or publish any personal information without prior consent.

Some findings:

     – Although Canada’s no-fly list was introduced on June 18, 2007, airlines continue to use the U.S. no-fly list – even when they fly domestically;
    – A number of people have been mistakenly identified as being on a no-fly list but refuse to discuss it publicly for fear of attracting more attention to themselves;
    – People who have encountered problems no longer fly or visit the U.S. for fear of harassment;
    – A significant number of people who continue to be detained at the borders are from racialized communities, peace activists or have a history of labour activism;
    – There is considerable ignorance and confusion about the Canadian watch list. Even Liberal Senator Colin Kenny who chairs the National Security and Defence committee appeared confused a couple of weeks ago when he asked the Transport minister to remove his 33-year old son’s name from the Canadian no-fly list. He said Robert, a Toronto Crown attorney, has been encountering problems when flying in Canada and the U.S. for the past five years. However the Canadian no-fly list is a year-old. He also complained that his youngest son, James, is also on some sort of airline watch list.
    – In the first year of the Passenger Protect Program, Transport Canada reports approximately 100 cases of false positives based on a list that is said to contain between 500 and 3,000 names.
    – According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. watch lists will have ballooned to include one million names by next month.
    – In the U.S., one airline reports 9,000 false positives every single day.
    – There is little recourse for an individual who shares the name of someone on a no-fly list.


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