No fly list fix requires computer overhaul: Goodale

Canada’s system makes it difficult to clear up misunderstandings at check-in

OTTAWA – Canada and the United States have set up a working group to help sort out errors of identity on no-fly lists.

But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canada needs “an entirely new database and information system” to completely solve the problem of people – including youngsters – being delayed at airports due to false matches.

The bilateral Redress Working Group provides a means for government officials to communicate and will help ensure availability of the most accurate information, Goodale said Tuesday.

It will protect the shared transportation and national security interests of both countries, while minimizing headaches for the travelling public, he added.

However, Goodale acknowledged it’s a first step because, unlike the standalone U.S. system, Canada’s no-fly list database “was designed to sort of piggyback” on to airline computers – meaning it’s more difficult to clear up misunderstandings.

“We are looking at the practical ways where we can find solutions in the short term for the false positives that are popping up, and then redesign the whole thing for the longer term, which will mean an entirely new database and information system,” Goodale said.

“You’ve got to change the entire computer system on the Canadian side, and I’ve asked the information technology experts, and they tell me that is neither quick nor easy, and it will require substantial investment,” he added.

“So we’ve got to get all those ducks in a row. It would have been far better if, when this was designed years ago, that the Canadian system would have been structured in a similar way to the American (system), but it wasn’t.”

Dozens of Canadian youngsters have experienced unnerving airport delays because their names appeared to match those on a security list.

Earlier this year, Goodale reminded airlines that they don’t need to vet children against Canada’s no-fly list. But some families of children caught in the web say they still can’t check the kids in online.

The government is exploring possible regulatory changes that would help identify those who have similar or the same names as people on the no-fly roster.

In addition, during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Washington in March, Canada and the U.S. agreed to set up the bilateral working group.

Goodale said he wants the two countries’ no-fly lists to be synchronized soon. “The officials are just beginning their discussion, so it’s a little bit hard to say if that can happen, but I would like to move it very rapidly.”

Khadija Cajee, whose six-year-old son Adam has been repeatedly flagged at the airport, said Tuesday the government seems “to be taking this very seriously.”

But Cajee, who speaks for many families facing the same difficulties, said she wants more details on what’s being done.

“We hope that there will be a solution to this in short order.”

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