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Air Canada orders extra security checks on Yemen-linked passengers

Posted by Jeff on November 6, 2010 at 11:38 AM

Workers load a Qatar Airways plane with luggage at Sanaa International Airport. Governments tightened aviation security earlier this week after two US-bound bombs sent in air cargo from Yemen were ...

Air Canada is directing staff to subject passengers with any connection to Yemen to additional security screening, the head of an Islamic group says – a move he equates with racial profiling.

In an internal memo, the national carrier wrote that anyone who is born in the Arab nation, has citizenship there or is travelling to the country, should be pulled aside, taken to a separate area and subjected to extra security checks on top of regular search procedures, said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mr. Gardee, who has seen the memo, said the document had been issued to staff at Vancouver International Airport, but implied that the new checks apply to passengers at other major airports as well.

The missive follows the discovery of two bombs, which had apparently originated from Yemen, and were discovered aboard cargo jets bound for the United States. The reported targets were Jewish centres in Chicago. An al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Yemen has since claimed responsibility.

Earlier this week, Canada and some other nations banned direct cargo flights from the country, in order to head off potential security concerns.

It was not immediately clear whether the latest memo was taken at the initiative of Air Canada alone, or if it followed some direction from the government. Officials at the airline and at Transport Canada could not be reached for comment late Friday evening.

Mr. Gardee said that he understands the concerns about airline security, especially in the wake of last week’s bomb scare, but cautioned that the new policy contains elements of racial profiling.

“What if you were born in Yemen, you left when you were six months old, you’ve never been back, you don’t care about Yemen, but what this memo says is you would still be taken for additional screening,” he said. “There is no qualitative or quantitative evidence that [racial profiling] works as public policy.”

What’s more, he said, staff are being directed not to hold flights while these additional checks are performed, and instead to book the Yemeni passenger on the next plane.

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