BCCLA tells Canada to defend citizens’ rights against secret US travel watchlists

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association November 24, 2010
For immediate release

Civil Liberties Group Tells Canada to Defend Citizens’ Rights Against Secret US Travel Watchlists Vancouver, B.C.

The BCCLA is in Ottawa tomorrow to make a presentation to the Standing Committee on Transport opposing a bill that will allow Canadian air carriers to provide passenger information to foreign countries. While passenger information is typically forwarded to flight destination countries, Bill C-42 is meant to satisfy US Secure Flight rules that require personal information on passengers who are merely overflying US airspace. Under US Secure Flight, Canadians travelling to or from Europe, the Carribbean and South America can be denied permission travel on the basis of secret US watchlists.

Robert Holmes, President: “We are being told that Secure Flight is a ‘safety’ measure. But not only is there no evidence that no-fly lists improve aviation safety, but Canadians who will be stranded in foreign countries, unable to fly home and smeared with the label of “terrorist” are going to be actively endangered by this so-called ‘safety’ initiative.”

The US Secure Flight Program is a system of travel permissions or denials for transiting US airspace. The Canadian government announced that Canadians will be exempt from Secure Flight for flights between two Canadian cities that overfly the U.S., but not for any other flights that overfly the United States. The BCCLA takes the position that Canada‟s enabling of watchlist vetting by a foreign country on the basis of secret criteria with no due process or redress is a violation of both Canadian and international law.

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director: “Canadians were supposedly going to be exempt having the US no-fly list imposed on us, because we would “harmonize” our security measures, for instance, by developing our own no-fly list. It is clear at this point that the “exemptions” do not last. The next stage in this process will be that the sovereign people of Canada will be asking permission of a foreign government for Canadians to fly in their own country. This is a critical issue not only of Canadians‟ rights, but of our national sovereignty.”

The government has been taking the position that there is no viable alternative to Bill C-42 because the US is sovereign over its airspace. The BCCLA is urging Canada to work with members of the international community.

“There is no country in the world who can welcome this”, said Vonn. “If every country in the world were to reciprocate with its own system of over-flight travel permissions and denials, international travel and trade as we know it would grind to a halt. The international community is grappling with these issues, and we need to have this discussion at that level. Canada must stand up to say not only is security not the enemy of fundamental justice, but there can be no security without fundamental justice.”

Robert Holmes, President, (604) 681-1310

Micheal Vonn, Policy Director, (604) 630-9753