Terrorist Links May not Lead to Canada's No-Fly Roster

Being a member of a terrorist organization won't necessarily land someone on Canada's no-fly list, The Canadian Press has learned.

Proposed criteria would limit inclusion on the roster to those who pose ''an immediate threat to aviation security,'' say internal briefing notes prepared by Transport Canada.

Draft regulations, disclosed by a source familiar with details of the plan, confirm the no-fly list will be tightly focused and reviewed every 30 days to keep it up to date.

''You cannot be put on the list on the sole basis that you're a member of a 'terrorist group','' said the source. ''In addition, you have to be a demonstrable threat to aviation safety.''

The no-fly initiative, known as Passenger Protect, will also feature an independent appeal process - but it won't provide financial compensation to those improperly placed on the list, said the source, who asked not be named.

Transport Canada plans to have the list ready for airlines to use within Canada by the end of the year. The roster would be available for international flights likely some time next year.

The source said that under the proposed regulations, people involved in a terrorist group - either now or in the past - could be added to the list only if there were reason to suspect they may ''compromise civil aviation, the security of any aircraft or aerodrome, or the safety of the public, passengers or crew.''

People would also be considered for the list if authorities suspect they have:

_ Been convicted of one or more serious and life-threatening crimes against civil aviation - meaning a public air carrier - in Canada or abroad.

_Attempted to commit an offence or offences related to civil aviation.

_Been convicted of one or more violent criminal offences and have a motive to attack or harm an air carrier or passengers or crew.

_Been determined, based on their behaviour or actions, to constitute an immediate threat to civil aviation.

Candidates for the list would be put forward primarily by the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Members of these agencies, along with representatives of Transport and the Justice Department, would sit on an advisory panel that formally recommends names for inclusion.

Ultimately, the transport minister would decide whether a person is added to the no-fly list.

The regulations will soon be published with an invitation for public comment.

''The program is not intended to be used as a tool to apprehend anyone, but simply to keep those who would pose an immediate threat to aviation security from flying,'' say internal notes obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The source said officials will be surprised if the resulting Canadian list includes more than 1,000 names.

The approach reflects the government's desire to avoid pitfalls experienced in the United States, where the no-fly roster features some 70,000 names.

It is believed that thousands of people, including numerous Canadians, have been mistakenly singled out at airports because their identities matched common names on the U.S. list.

Under Ottawa's plan, people will not be notified in advance that they are on the Canadian no-fly list. The source said informing individuals was considered impractical because it would be difficult to locate some people, and it would severely limit the willingness of police and intelligence agencies to provide names for the list.

Consequently, individuals on the roster will find out only when they attempt to board a plane.

At that point, the airline would call Transport Canada, whose officials would inform the RCMP's national operations centre of a pending boarding denial.

The Mounties, after assessing the need for police at scene, could then request that airport police or local constables be present.

A planned ''office of reconsideration'' - housed outside Transport's security division - would provide independent review of a person's placement on the list.

Initially, the office would determine whether the person is actually on the list, or merely has a name similar to a listed individual.

Within three days of receiving a person's notarized identity papers, the office would clarify whether the individual is listed or merely a victim of mistaken identity.

Once it is established that someone is actually on the list, the individual could submit written reasons as to why he or she should not be included.

The office would retain independent experts with a background in security law to review the submission and forward a recommendation to the minister, who would decide whether the person remained on the list. It is hoped the entire process would take no more than 30 days.

The source said that in the interests of privacy, the no-fly list would not be used by authorities for purposes other than aviation safety, and airlines would be required to keep the roster confidential.

Colin Bennett, a University of Victoria political scientist, doubts the list will be as tightly guarded as officials say.

''There's no way that that kind of information can be kept as restricted as they claim it will be,'' he said in an interview.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Vanessa Vermette said that in coming weeks the department will release a summary of the privacy impact assessment it has drafted for the program.

The assessment, which includes measures to minimize privacy breaches, is now being studied by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart's office.

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