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"Canadian officials attempt to calm airport security fears"


 
Friday, December 22, 2006

Federal officials attempt to calm airport security fears
BY OLIVER MOORE 
Canada - The Globe and Mail


Federal officials scrambled yesterday to play down concerns that thousands
of passengers flying out of Toronto's Pearson Airport faced minimal or
non-existent security after a labour dispute, calling them allegations that
have not yet been fully investigated.

Private-sector workers contracted to do security screening at the country's
busiest airport say managers stepped in to clear backlogs caused by a
work-to-rule campaign just after Thanksgiving, according to a report carried
by the CBC, and that the managers circumvented the rules to do so.

An investigation has been launched, but Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon
said yesterday that pending the results, air travellers have no reason to
feel insecure.

Official reassurances were not enough to soothe some passengers using the
airport yesterday, including a University of Pennsylvania student who flew
in on an American Airlines flight.

"It's not a very comforting thought," said Alex Broseus, 25. "I was flying
out of Paris the day after the Heathrow liquid bomb scare in August and I've
had a fear of flying since. This will aggravate it."

It bothered her that people in authority might have let something like this
happen. "They are playing with lives," she said.

In his comments to reporters, Mr. Cannon said Wednesday's report on The
National contained unproven details.

"These are allegations that have been brought forward," he said. "Canadians
that use our air travel [system] can be assured that Transport Canada . . .
takes every measure required to ensure that they are in a safe environment."

A similar note was struck by official spokespeople for Transport Canada and
the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is in charge of airport
security. Both said it isn't yet clear whether the allegations are valid.

"As far as I know, there has not been a report so far," said Jacques Dufort,
the Transport Canada spokesman on airport and marine security. "I was told
that there wasn't."

He added that Transport Canada has increased its monitoring of CATSA
operations in the meantime. "The investigation is ongoing," he said.

A spokeswoman for CATSA said passengers faced no increased danger during the
four days in question. "Based on the information we have, all passengers and
luggage were screened according to regulations," Irene Marcheterre said.

At Terminal 1 of the Toronto airport, CATSA operations manager Gilbert
Dekoker described the incident as a "tempest in a teacup."

"There's nothing to that story," he said.

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