The Harper government has quietly presented a bill in the House of Commons that would give U.S. officials final say over who can board aircraft in Canada if they are to fly over the U.S. en route to a third country.
"Canadian sovereignty has gone right out the window," Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe told the Montreal Gazette in a recent interview. "You are going to be subject to American law."
Bill C-42 amends Canada's Aeronautics Act to allow airlines to pass on passenger information to "a foreign state" for flights over that country without landing.
At present, airlines are only required to give passenger information to the U.S. government on flights landing in the United States.
Bill C-42 would comply with U.S. Homeland Security's Secure Flight program, which requires airlines to submit personal information about passengers 72 hours before a flight's departure.
As Canwest News reported in March, Secure Flight has already been introduced for U.S. airlines, and U.S. Homeland Security wants to implement it internationally, including on Canadian airlines, by the end of 2010.
If Bill C-42 passes, then passengers leaving Canada on a flight to Cuba or France, for example, while flying over the U.S. would have their name, birthdate and gender subject to screening by U.S. Homeland Security, which involves running that information through various government databases to determine whether there is a terrorist threat.
If you have the same name as someone on a no-fly list, you may be questioned, delayed or even barred from the flight. If your name does not match, Homeland Security tells the airline that you may have a boarding pass.
Currently, Canadian airlines check names against no-fly lists provided by the U.S. and Canadian governments. But the airlines decide who gets a boarding pass.
Mr. Volpe noted that Bill C-42 does not refer specifically to the United States, adding that "with a stroke of the pen" the government is agreeing to give information on Canadian passengers to any foreign government.
"They just opened the door to everybody without even so much as, 'Hello, why are you doing this?'
"They can harass our airlines, harass our passengers, anything they want to."
Mr. Volpe said Bill C-42 was introduced with no warning and no discussion with the three opposition parties. Together, the opposition parties could vote down the legislation.
"The government doesn't feel very comfortable about what it is doing," he said. "It is trying to put one over on the public away from the scrutiny of the press and the opposition."
Dennis Bevington, the NDP transport critic, said Bill C-42 was presented at "the very last moment" before the June 17 adjournment.
"We're doing this without understanding what the threat assessment is," Mr. Bevington said from Hay River in his Western Arctic riding.
"There's no way that this is going to get an easy ride."
While Transport Minister John Baird presented Bill C-42 on June 17, his office redirected questions to Public Security Minister Vic Toews.
In an email, Public Security official Sophie Bedard said: "this straightforward, technical amendment to the Aeronautics Act would also ensure Canadians do not face any undue delays in their travel plans."
Fuck this noise. Here's to hoping the opposition actually grows a spine and votes this one down.