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article imageOp-Ed: 6-year old Ontario boy on Canadian no-fly list

By Ken Hanly     Jan 3, 2016 in Travel
Ottawa - Syed Adam Ahmed is a six-year old boy from Markham near Toronto, Ontario. Since he was a toddler he has been flagged as a travel risk.
Canada has it very own no-fly list. Of course this title is too crass and unfriendly to describe the list which has the comforting name of Passenger Protect Program. The program has been criticized since it was first proposed and implemented in 2007 notably by Lawyer Faisal Kutty. Although the actual numbers of names on the Canadian no-fly list remain secret, Wikipedia lists the number as between 500 and 2,000. Canadian Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, is challenging the government's refusal to disclose the information to a Montreal journalist who asked for it under the Access to Information Act. The government claims releasing the information could help plot a catastrophic attack on an airliner. How this could be is not explained. The government also warns that divulging the numbers could hurt relations with allies such as the United States.
Ahmed's family try to shield him from the process in which the family often has to provide extra identification to show that his name is triggering a false positive response from the data base. His mother Khadija Cajee told CBC:
"We try to keep him protected from all this stuff, because we don't want him to feel singled out and stigmatized."
Both she and her husband Sulemaan Ahmed say they never received a straight answer from Staff at the Transportation and Public Safety departments as to what list their son could be on or whether he was actually on any list.
Cajee praises the response of airline agents: "Every agent has been really sympathetic to our situation. There are always eye rolls, they're always in disbelief. A lot of times they think it's my husband so they look at him, but he always says to them, 'No, it's the little guy down there.'" Airline officials suggest that getting an Aeroplan card might help. It works some times but not others. They even suggested changing his name. Why should someone need to change their name when they have done nothing wrong?
The name issue was dramatically illustrated for the U.S. no-fly list when 60 Minutes brought together 12 men named Robert Johnson — they all had travel troubles and delays. Probably, it is because a Robert Johnson had been convicted of plotting to bomb a movie theater and a Hindu temple in Toronto. Even Senator Ted Kennedy had problems that took several weeks of direct contact with top officials to sort out. T. Kennedy is apparently an alias of a suspected terrorist.
Syed is a great fan of the Montreal Canadians or Habs. When his father tried to take him to the Winter Classic game on New Year's Day in Boston, the same old hassle began. Ahmed was able to take a photo of the screen shot of the computer showing Ahmed flagged on the Deemed High Profile list. He tweeted the photo asking Air Canada why the boy was targeted. Hockey news media picked up the story: You wouldn’t think that a 6-year-old boy wearing a Canadiens sweater en route to the NHL Winter Classic in Boston would be deemed a security risk when trying to board an airplane. But that was the case for Syed Adam Ahmed on New Year’s Eve when the boy and his father — who was also wearing a Habs jersey — were about to board an Air Canada Flight in Toronto. And it’s not the first time this has happened.“It happens every time we cross the border by air or land,” Sulemaan Ahmed said about his son, who goes by his middle name, Adam.
With the message retweeted more than 160 times, Ahmed soon heard from his local MP Jane Philpott and also Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. During the recent election campaign the Liberals promise to review the no-fly list. Goodale said this is already happening and there will soon be a public consultation. Goodale told CBC news:"The reports of Mr. Ahmed and his son, Adam's, experience during their recent travel to Boston is certainly cause for concern and I will be reviewing the specifics of their case with officials in the coming days." Perhaps, the Liberals could start the process by releasing the number of names that are on the list. As the appended video shows American six year olds can make it to the US no-fly list as well.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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