Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bill to share passenger info passes

Could stop travellers from flying over U.S. airspace

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OTTAWA -- The House of Commons passed a controversial private member's bill Wednesday that would force airlines to provide passenger information to the United States when they travel to American destinations or even pass through U.S. airspace.

Bill C-42, introduced by Conservative House leader John Baird while he was transport minister, passed its third reading by a vote of 246 to 34. The NDP was the only party to vote against the proposed bill, which now moves to the Senate for consideration prior to royal assent.

Opposition parties and civil liberties groups have said the proposed bill raises privacy concerns because Canadians' personal information would be in American hands.

The legislation is designed to amend Canada's Aeronautics Act and essentially gives the U.S. the final say on who gets to travel on Canadian flights that pass over its airspace.

Canadian airlines currently aren't obligated to share flight information with the U.S. unless passengers are landing there.

If made law, the bill would comply with American laws so Canadian airlines would have to provide passenger information 72 hours before departure.

U.S. Homeland Security officials would then screen travellers' names, birth dates and sex information against lists of suspected terrorists, including the notorious American no-fly list.

If a passenger shares the same name as someone on a no-fly list, he or she could be questioned, delayed or even stopped from boarding a flight.

Last month, a British man was stuck in Canada for three days after he was barred from boarding a flight because his name was on a security threat list.

Dawood Hepplewhite, 30, of Sheffield, England, said British High Commission consular officials had to intervene so he could leave Toronto.

Hepplewhite's name appeared on the U.S. no-fly list, and his flight from Toronto to England was scheduled to fly through U.S. airspace.

Last month, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the government should disclose how Canadian passenger flight information will be shared with the U.S.

"Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window.

"You are going to be subject to American law," Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told Postmedia News when the bill was introduced.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 3, 2011 A8

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