Sunday, October 14, 2007

“Our objective is to work with the Americans. I don't want to question their legitimacy.”

The NY Times has chosen to give some air time today to this story: "U.S. Plan for Airline Security Meets Resistance in Canada." They're clearly not referring to our Conservative government in that headline. Instead, it's an official with the Air Transport Association of Canada, who speaks out against the U.S. Homeland Security big brother types looking to get their mitts on our airline passenger lists from those flights passing through but not landing in U.S. airspace.
Canadian airlines are balking at a Department of Homeland Security plan that would require them to turn over information about passengers flying over the United States to reach another country.

The proposal, which appears at odds with Canada’s privacy laws, would mostly involve Canadians who join the annual winter exodus to Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean. It is also viewed by the Canadian airline industry as a rejection of several costly measures already taken to assuage American concerns.

“I appreciate and respect United States citizens’ concern for their safety and security,” said Fred Gaspar, the vice president of policy and strategic planning for the Air Transport Association of Canada. “But we need to understand what the gap is they need to fix.”
In June, Canada put in effect its own no-fly list of potentially dangerous travelers. The Canadian program was developed after extensive consultation with the United States.

Mr. Gaspar said that the Canadian airlines’ understanding was that once Canada’s program was under way, the only information they would have to give the United States would be about passengers headed to that country.

“Either the United States places no value whatsoever in the Canadian list, which it helped develop, or I have to suspect what’s going on here is a pure and simple data-fishing exercise,” Mr. Gaspar said.

Among other things, he speculated that the data could be used by American authorities to track Americans who violated the trade embargo against Cuba by flying there on Canadian airlines. (emphasis added)
In Friday's Globe Transport Minister Lawrence "Loose" Cannon said the Conservatives were going to work with the U.S., due to their good relations with Homeland Security and his desire not to question the Americans' "legitimacy" in this effort. Since, you know, the U.S. government deserves unquestioned support from ours on such matters, particularly in light of their record in truth-telling on national security matters to their own nation and the world. No, never mind all that to the Conservatives. They've got blinders on when it comes to the Americans. They're ready to work out a compromise over certain flights, I take it from Cannon's comments in the Globe, for which I presume the government has no qualms in handing over Canadian citizens' information.

I wonder if those flights will indeed end up being the ones going to Cuba, as the ATAC official suggests. Because if they are, I would imagine that most Canadians would likely not support our being in the business of handing over that information to the Americans, along with that of our own citizens.

We don't support their historical embargo against Cuba and we shouldn't be in the business of helping them enforce theirs.