OTTAWA — The federal public safety minister says his officials have reminded airlines they don't need to vet children against Canada's no-fly list, after a six-year-old was stopped by airport security.
Ralph Goodale said Thursday his department is also exploring possible changes to the Secure Air Travel Regulations that would help differentiate individuals who have similar or the same names as people on the no-fly list.
In addition, Goodale indicated the no-fly regime — officially known as the Passenger Protect Program — would be examined during broad public consultations on Canada's overall security framework.
The minister promised to investigate after the father of Canadian-born Syed Adam Ahmed tweeted a photo from Toronto's international airport that appeared to show the boy's name with a "DHP" or "deemed high profile" label and instructions on how to proceed before allowing the boy to check in.
They were trying to board an Air Canada flight Dec. 31 to Boston to see the NHL Winter Classic.
Similar stories of other youngsters encountering difficulties at the airport soon emerged.
In a statement, Adam's parents, Sulemaan Ahmed and Khadija Cajee, welcomed Goodale's announcement, saying he "addressed several key points that we asked for."
"We definitely understand the need for a robust security system and this is a wonderful opportunity to address the flaws in and improve the quality of the system."
Goodale said his department fully acknowledges the frustration of law-abiding travellers whose plans are interrupted as a result of false positives arising in the security screening of airline passenger manifests.
"We have heard the concerns of those who have gone through additional security screening that this situation can cause confusion and feelings of stigmatization."
The current air travel regulations say that before issuing a boarding pass to any person who appears to be 18 years of age or older, an airline must first verify the identity of the person by comparing their name with the names on the Canadian no-fly list. It means the regulations don't apply to those under 18.
However, Air Canada is known to use U.S. security lists in vetting passengers, meaning young Adam may not have been stopped because of an apparent match with a name on the Canadian roster.
The boy's parents said while they had been shocked by the worldwide reaction to their initial tweet, "we are very pleased by the speed with which our government has reacted, and we are more than happy to offer whatever we can to assist the minister and our government in helping resolve this issue."
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By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press