Thursday, December 11, 2008

Think US Airport Security Is A Joke, Check Out Canada

An extensive RCMP report on Canada's airport security has concluded that gangs and smugglers have infiltrated the country's largest airports.

The inquiry, entitled Project Spawn, went over hundreds of police reports at Canada's eight biggest airports and concluded that 58 crime groups are operating within the airports.

The Globe and Mail obtained a summary of the report, which said the gang activity was concentrated mostly within Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny, who was chair of a Senate committee on security and defence in the last Parliament, said it was "a shameful day" for Canada.

He told CTV Newsnet Thursday that this is the third report to say that gangs had infiltrated Canadian airports and the government has not responded in kind.

Transport Minister John Baird promised a five-point action plan, including legislative changes, to improve airport security.

"We're committed to tackling this challenge," Baird told CTV Newsnet Thursday evening.

Kenny called for tighter security, primarily for airport employees, and especially those working near aircraft.

"Those working around the aircraft . . . get searched one time in 50 when they are going to work," Kenny said. "They should be searched when they are going in and coming out."

Baird said that privacy laws were creating challenges for security, as employees can legally only be searched on their way to work, not during or when they leave.

Kenny had strong words for the department that runs airport security and said they were not up to the task.

"Transport Canada has been asleep at the switch and the job should be given to someone who understands security," he said. "The RCMP would be my first choice."

Baird said airport security is hurt because of a lack of communication between police, Transport Canada and the airports.

"(Privacy laws) are an important part of our fabric to ensure that Canadians' privacy are protected . . . but what we got to do is ensure we can share information so when the police discover real concerns about a particular employee we have the capacity to get that information and move quickly to revoke security clearances," Baird said.

Critics have pointed out that if organized gangs have easily infiltrated Canadian airports, there appears to be nothing stopping terrorist organizations.

But Baird said the RCMP never uncovered anything of a terrorist nature in their report.

The report said that hundreds of people were suspected in smuggling operations taking place from 2005 to 2007. Nearly 300 of the suspected smugglers were current or former airline employees.

There are 88,000 people who work in Canada's airports.

According to the report, the most commonly smuggled drug is khat, an African plant with narcotic properties. It is usually smuggled into Canada from the U.K., where it is legal.

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