Federal Budget 2018: No-Fly List Kids celebrate ‘huge step’ with $80 million in federal funding

Sebastian Khan, 3, of London, Ontario sits patiently as his mother talks about his name being on the Canada's No Fly List during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last November. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The federal government says it will provide just over $80 million over the next five years to revamp the no-fly list and its accompanying computer system, marking a victory for dozens of Canadian families that have faced years of frustration and delays at airports.

The No-Fly List Kids group, founded two years ago, had been pushing hard for the new investments and called Tuesday’s announcement in the federal budget “a huge step.”

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The names of children in the group match, or closely resemble, actual names on the no-fly list. Each time they try to check in for a flight, their names are flagged, forcing them to undergo additional security screening and sometimes delaying them and their families for hours.

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At the moment, there is little they can do to smooth the process and prevent further problems. The group was asking for a redress system that would assign a special number to each person who regularly ends up as a “false flag.” It would instantly prove that they pose no threat.

WATCH: Fighting to fix the No-Fly list

Click to play video: 'Fighting to fix the No-Fly list'
Fighting to fix the No-Fly list

That, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, means building a new computer system from the ground up, something that Ottawa now seems prepared to do.

“The enhanced program will help ensure that privacy and fairness concerns are addressed, while keeping Canadians safe,” the budget document states.

The funding, however, is back-loaded, with two-thirds of it coming after the next federal election in 2019.

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Just $8 million is being set aside this fiscal year, and another $16 million in 2019-2020. It’s therefore unclear when the new system might actually be up and running.

Representatives from the No-Fly List Kids group met with Finance Minister Bill Morneau last week to discuss their plight, and said they were optimistic that the budget would address their concerns.

“We’re very pleased with the announcement, obviously,” said lawyer Khalid Elgazzar, who represents the families, on Tuesday.

He added that the group is “thankful that we’ve been heard.”

As far as the back-loading of the funds, Elgazzar said that the group will be inquiring about the logic behind that choice, but “we trust that the government has done its due diligence” with regards to the overall dollar figure and the roll-out.

“We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the government, and in particular, the minister of public safety,” he said.

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