More than a year after their troubles first came to light, children whose names appear on a Canadian security watch-list are still being held up at airports.
The kids — 55 of them at last count — represent no security threat. Their names just happen to match or closely resemble ones currently on the list.
“In Washington, I think our bags got searched,” said Michael Pierre, 16, who has repeatedly been caught up in the confusion.
“Italy we got held up, we didn’t speak the language, so it can be confusing.”
In late 2015, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pledged that the no-fly regime would be examined during broad public consultations on Canada’s overall security framework.
Then, in June, the Passenger Protect Inquiries Office was announced. Its mandate is to assist travelers who have experienced difficulties related to aviation security lists, but it has no power to effectively eliminate travel woes for passengers like Pierre or 7-year-old Syed Adam Ahmed, who has been flagged at airports nearly his whole life.
Parents say their children are still being stopped and searched.
WATCH: 6-year-old flagged as security risk in Toronto
Canadian airlines are required to enforce the Canadian no-fly list for domestic flights and the Secure Flight Program created by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for flights passing through American airspace. Although airlines are not required to check if passengers under 18 are on no-fly lists, some still do it anyway.
Canada’s aviation watch lists are managed through the Passenger Protect Program, which is administered by the Public Safety and Transportation ministries.
There have been repeated promises from Ottawa that the falsely matched travellers (including children) would be entered into a new database and given a unique number that will prove they pose no security threat when travelling. A similar system exists in the United States.
That isn’t expected to happen until mid-2018, however.
“It’s going to take some policy changes, it’s going to take a major computer upgrade and that is a very expensive proposition,” said Goodale.
“The budget will be determined in due course by the minister of finance, and having been a former minister of finance, I don’t comment on any budget procedures.”
Khadija Cajee, Syed Adam Ahmed’s mother, said she is “cautiously optimistic that this will be tabled within the budget,” which could come as early as late February.
“I’m optimistic that we will see a resolution not too long from now, hopefully,” she said.
– With files from Andrew Russell