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"Report underlines security gaps at Canadian airports"


 
Thursday, December 14, 2006

Report underlines security gaps at airports  
By Andrew Mayeda
Canada - The Ottawa Citizen


OTTAWA - A Senate committee says a new report prepared for the federal
government on airport security doesn't go far enough in key areas such as
screening of airport workers.

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon tabled the report in Parliament this
week.

A panel of security and airport experts prepared the report as part of the
government's five-year review of the Canadian Air Transport Security
Authority, created in 2002 to oversee passenger screening and other duties.

The report recommends CATSA continue to conduct random security checks of
airport workers passing through restricted areas. But the Senate committee
on national security and defence believes workers and other non-passengers
should be screened every time they enter or leave such areas.

"They're missing the boat," said Liberal Senator and committee chair Colin
Kenny, an outspoken critic of Canada's airport-security measures. "Why are
we wasting all of our time and money searching passengers the way we are
when we're leaving the side door and the back door wide open?"

The committee says it has received evidence that, under the random-search
regime, only one to two per cent of workers are screened. It notes that in
countries such as Britain, all non-passengers entering restricted areas are
searched.

"We've had testimony from ground crews telling us how easy it is to evade
the random screening," said Kenny.

The Senators also object to a recommendation that Transport Canada continue
to serve as the regulator of "overall security" at Canadian airports.

"We don't think that Transport Canada has demonstrated the competence to
handle airport security," said Kenny, who would like responsibility for
airport security transferred to the Public Safety ministry and the RCMP.

His committee argues airports are "riddled with security gaps" more than
five years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It believes rigorous
passenger screening creates the illusion airports are secure, despite holes
in the surveillance of baggage and cargo and the screening of airport
workers.

The report does recommend Transport Canada accelerate the development of a
program for screening air cargo, screen vehicles entering restricted areas
and expand passenger screening to private airfields used for charter
flights.

But Kenny said Transport Canada has been dragging its feet on issues such as
cargo screening. "The government has been conducting a two-year study on how
to deal with air cargo. To put it kindly, that's a dollar short and a day
late."

However, Jim Facette, president of the Canadian Airports Council, said he
was pleased with the general direction of the recommendations. It doesn't
appear that CATSA would overly encroach on the jurisdiction of the
non-profit authorities that manage the country's major airports. "The
balance would remain essentially the same."

But he said his organization has concerns about whether CATSA is adequately
funded.

"I'm not sure the recommendations address CATSA's financial requirements and
its ability to raise funding for the projects that need funding."

Natalie Sarafian, a spokeperson for Cannon, said the minister is still
studying the report and will likely table a response in the spring.

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