Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 4 - Evidence, November 27, 2002


OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:03 p.m. to examine and report on the need for a national security policy for Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the Chair.

The Chairman: Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Today, we continue our study on the need for a national security policy by looking at the issue of airport security.

My name is Colin Kenny. I am a senator from Ontario and I chair the committee.

On my immediate right is our deputy chair, the distinguished senator from Nova Scotia. Senator Mike Forrestall had an early career as journalist with the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and as an airline executive. After that he entered politics and was first elected to the House of Commons in 1965. For more than 37 years he has served the constituents of Dartmouth, reminding us in particular of the importance of 12 Wing Shearwater. Throughout his parliamentary career he has followed defence matters, serving on various committees, as well as representing Canada at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

On my far right is Senator Norman Atkins from Ontario. He came to the Senate in 1986 with a strong background in the field of communications. He also served as an adviser to former Premier Davis of Ontario. A graduate of economics from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, he received an honorary doctorate in civil law in 2000 from his alma mater. During his time as a senator, he has concerned himself with a number of issues, including education and poverty. As well, he has championed the cause of the Canadian merchant navy veterans. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Senate Conservative caucus.

Beside him is Senator Jane Cordy from Nova Scotia. An accomplished educator, she also has an extensive record of community involvement. She has served as Vice-Chair of the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Authority and as Chair of the Board of Referees for the Halifax Region of Human Resources Development Canada. In addition to serving on our committee, she is also a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology that recently released a landmark report on health care. She is an active participant in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and has just returned from meetings in Istanbul.

On my extreme left is Senator Michael Meighen from Ontario. A graduate in law from Laval University, he also has a strong background in business, as well as extensive community interests. Appointed to the Senate in 1990, he was a member of the joint parliamentary committee that studied defence policy prior to the release of the 1994 White Paper on Defence. He is also Chancellor of the University of King's College in Halifax and a very active supporter of the Stratford Festival.

Beside him is Senator Banks from Alberta. Tommy Banks is well known to Canadians as one of our most accomplished and versatile entertainers. An international standard-bearer for Canadian culture, a Juno award-winning musician, Senator Banks has achieved national and international renown as a conductor or musical director for many signature events, such as the opening ceremonies for the 1988 Olympics. He was also a featured performer at the senators' dinner for land mines, as well as accompanist for the Senate chorus of which Senators Cordy and Day are members.

We also have been joined by Senator Day from New Brunswick. Joe Day holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineer from the Royal Military College in Kingston, an LL.B from Queen's University, and Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall. Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2001, he had a successful career in private practice as an attorney. His legal interests include patent and trademark law and intellectual property issues. In the Senate, he has served on the Human Rights Committee and recently travelled to Costa Rica to study the operations of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He is also an active member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Our committee is the first permanent Senate committee with a mandate to examine the subjects of security and defence. Over the past 16 months, we have concluded a seven-month study of major issues facing Canada and we produced a report entitled ``Canadian Security and Military Preparedness.'' We have also issued a report on coastal defence entitled ``Defence of North America: a Canadian Responsibility.'' This past month our committee has released a report entitled ``For an Extra $130 Bucks... Update on Canada's Military Crisis: A View from the Bottom Up.''

The Senate has now asked our committee to examine the need for a national security policy. Today, we focus on airport security. So far, our committee has visited airports in Montreal and Vancouver, and held hearings on the subject in Toronto in June and in Ottawa in August.

Our witness today is Mr. William Elliott, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security Group, Transport Canada.

Before I get Mr. Elliott to introduce the officials with him and describe their qualifications, I would like to consult the committee briefly. We have received a fairly extensive statement from Mr. Elliott. For a number of reasons beyond his control, it did not reach us until five o'clock last night. Our staff has not had an opportunity to review it thoroughly, and some senators may not have had an opportunity to reflect on it to the extent that they would have liked.

The customary procedure in this committee is to review these remarks in advance and to ask for a brief 10-minute summary. In this case, would the committee be agreeable to having Mr. Elliott read the remarks in their entirety? He has also indicated that he is available for further questioning this coming Monday, when we are sitting. In the event that we do not cover all of the points in the time allotted before the Senate sits, he would be prepared to return before us and deal with any other questions this committee might have.

Judging by the nodding heads I see around the table, I take it that honourable senators are agreeable to having us proceed to have Mr. Elliott read his remarks in their entirety and proceed further on Monday morning if needed.

Are you agreeable, deputy chair?

Senator Forrestall: Agreed.

The Chairman: Honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Welcome, Mr. Elliott. We are pleased to have you here before us. If you could go back to the original text rather than the edited text, we would be most grateful. We assume that you in fact are available Monday morning should we require you further.

Mr. William Elliott, Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security Group, Department of Transport of Canada: That is correct.

Honourable senators, I would like to begin by apologizing to you, Mr. Chairman, and to members of the committee for providing you with my remarks late yesterday. I certainly welcome the opportunity that you are providing to me to present these remarks to you now.

[Translation]

I welcome the opportunity to appear before the Senate Committee today and would like to express my appreciation to the members of the Committee for their efforts to improve transportation security.

I would like to speak briefly about the significant progress that Transport Canada, working with our sister departments and agencies and with our stakeholders, has made since September 11, 2001 to enhance aviation security. No doubt much work remains to be done, but our accomplishments to date provide a solid foundation on which to build.

That foundation was not begun on September 11, 2001. Indeed, significant actions in aviation security date back a considerable period of time, and include measures adopted as a result of the Air India disaster in 1985.

[English]

More recently, the December 2001 budget allocated $2.2 billion in support of aviation security initiatives. The Government of Canada established the new Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, known as CATSA, to provide pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings and a number of other key aviation security services. The creation of CATSA was undertaken to establish a more consistent and integrated air transport security system across Canada.

CATSA has been designed to provide the benefits of flexibility in delivery mechanisms and sensitivity to local needs. Through CATSA the government is purchasing and installing advanced explosives detection systems at airports. We have put more security inspectors on the ground at airports and implemented immediate improvements to airport screening practices. We have established the Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program, which places RCMP officers on board selected international and domestic flights. We have required that cockpit doors be locked for the duration of flights, and the government is funding modifications to existing aircraft to enhance cockpit security. We have provided funds supporting aviation security-related policing at major airports. Let me provide some further information concerning these initiatives.

The Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program was established initially to provide officers on board flights to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. Having such a program in place was a condition of access to that airport being granted by U.S. authorities to air carriers. Following the December 2001 budget, the program was expanded to cover other selected domestic and international flights.

Transport Canada has in place security measures to provide the legal framework for the program. These include requirements for the notification of certain crew members — notably the pilot and chief flight attendant — whenever an aircraft protective officer is to be on board a specific flight. The RCMP, in cooperation with Transport Canada, has established a unit to coordinate risk assessments in support of the program. Transport Canada has assigned a liaison officer to work with the RCMP in that unit.

CATSA is responsible for contracting with the RCMP to provide aircraft protective officers while the RCMP operates the program. The RCMP continues to work with CATSA, Transport Canada and key stakeholders on implementing and expanding the program. In consultation with stakeholders, Transport Canada also defines the requirements for crew training.

Transport Canada's safety and security group is reviewing the current regulatory requirements and guidance material for crew-member security training. Both our civil aviation and security directorates are involved in the process for flight and cabin crew training. Security and Emergency Preparedness handles training in a number of areas, including hijacking, bomb threats and acts of sabotage, identification and dealing with weapons and explosive devices, unauthorized access to aircraft, and conducting visual inspections of aircraft to detect hazards to the security of a flight. Our Civil Aviation directorate handles training, including evacuation procedures, engine failures, fires on board and safety briefings.

Transport Canada's security is leading an internal working group dealing with cabin crew training. Both directorates are working closely to ensure that all issues are examined thoroughly and no element is overlooked. The Aviation Security Advisory Committee, of which I will be speaking a bit later, made recommendations associated with crew-member security training, which were approved by the Minister of Transport on June 21 of this year. They are currently being reviewed by an internal working group to determine the most appropriate mechanisms to implement these recommendations.

The internal working group is currently surveying the industry for input on approaches, as well as the development of terms of reference for a working group comprised of industry and government representatives, including unions. The target for implementation of enhanced crew training is the summer of 2003.

With respect to checked baggage, since 1986, following the Air India incident, Canada has required that all checked baggage be matched to passengers for all transborder and international flights. Canada also began using explosives, vapour detection systems at airports, in concert with x-ray equipment, sniffer dogs and manual search procedures. Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Transport Canada has also extended the requirement for checked baggage match to include all domestic flights.

Prior to September 11, 2001, Canada had recognized the need to expand the requirements for the screening of checked bags and had instituted a program to develop requirements for the implementation of advanced explosives detection systems at airports in Canada. This work was undertaken in consultation with other countries under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization. After September 11, it was recognized that activity to implement explosive detection screening needed to be carried out at an accelerated rate.

In December 2001, in the budget, the Government of Canada committed more than $1 billion over the next five years for the purchase, deployment and operation of explosives detection systems. This investment, which is now the responsibility of CATSA, will result in 100 per cent checked and carry-on screening on domestic transborder and other international flights at the 89 airports within CATSA's mandate. Those airports handle approximately 99 per cent of total passenger traffic in Canada.

Advanced explosives detection systems equipment is now being used to screen carry-on bags at airports that handle 96 per cent of passenger traffic. The deadline agreed to at ICAO for screening of checked bags for explosives is January 1, 2006, and we understand that CATSA is well on its way to meeting this deadline. We are encouraging CATSA to accelerate the deployment of EDS equipment as soon as possible.

The government has also proceeded with a number of legislative initiatives. In addition to the former Bill C-49, which established CATSA, and the former Bill C-44, which amended the Aeronautics Act to allow carriers, subject to regulation, to provide advanced passenger information to foreign authorities for international flights destined to those countries, amendments have also been proposed to strengthen authorities under the Aeronautics Act relating to aviation security.

These authorities will be the basis for further initiatives to reform and enhance existing orders, regulations and security measures, building on the changes that have already been introduced since September 11, 2001.

On December 31, 2002, CATSA will be taking over responsibility for screening at 89 airports. New regulations and security measures will be in place that reflect this transfer of responsibility from air carriers to CATSA.

On the subject of cargo and mail security, Transport Canada has established security requirements for cargo and mail that require safeguarding of cargo, training for persons accepting it for transport, searching of cargo in certain circumstances, provision of and verification of associated documentation, and conditions under which it may be accepted.

Transport Canada security measures include similar requirements regarding the conditions under which mail may be accepted by air carriers by Canada Post and how air carriers must provide for security of mail while it is in their custody.

Recently, Security and Emergency Preparedness officials conducted site visits of domestic and international cargo and shipping company facilities. Responsibility for mail security is shared by Canada Post, airport operators and air carriers. Transport Canada monitors compliance with aviation security requirements and takes enforcement action where necessary. Since September 11, many of these requirements have been enhanced, but it is recognized that further improvements are required.

Transport Canada intends to consult extensively with the industry on the development of enhanced security measures. The consultation process will include further consultations with a number of our key stakeholders.

Long before September 11, major international airports had arrangements in place with the police of local jurisdiction for police presence in their facilities. In addition, uniformed RCMP officers provide services in a number of key locations.

Since September 11, 2001, police have also been stationed in U.S. preclearance areas. Part of CATSA's mandate is provide funding support to airports that are required to have police on site, for costs related to aviation security policing, such as the police presence in U.S. preclearance.

To appropriately address aviation security policing requirements in the evolving security environment, there is a need to extend police presence beyond current arrangements. Canada's major international airports already have police on site. There are other Canadian airports where the requirement for police presence is being considered. Transport Canada is working with CATSA and the Canadian Airports Council to move forward on this issue. Any changes we implement will also involve consultations with potentially affected airports and other key stakeholders to ensure that there is a clear understanding from all viewpoints of the rationale for regulations and security measures.

Transport Canada has a long history of consulting with stakeholders to enhance the safety and security of the transportation system. We will continue to consult broadly with the aviation community so that Canada's air transportation system remains one of the safest and most secure in the world.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, we established the Aviation Security Advisory Committee to provide a forum to seek input from stakeholders and to develop recommendations on changes to enhance the safety and security of air travel. In November 2001, two working groups were formed to discuss specific issues pertaining to aviation security: the Aircraft Operations Security Working Group and the Airport Security Working Group. The Airport Security Working Group focused on issues such as pre-board screening of passengers and others and access to airport restricted areas. The Aircraft Operations Security Working Group examined issues such as the design features of aircraft to accommodate new security features, operational procedures and training, and flight deck access.

To ensure compatibility with international requirements, Transport Canada worked hand in hand with other jurisdictions, notably the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, to develop new regulations mandating major modifications to aircraft to prevent forcible intrusions through the cockpit door. These matters have also been addressed at the recent G8 meeting in Kananaskis and at the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Canadian regulations are now in place that require modifications to be completed by April 9, 2003. These modifications include the retrofit of flight deck doors with fortified lockable doors that can be locked or unlocked by the pilots without having to leave their seats.

In the December 2001 federal budget, $35 million was allocated to assist Canadian operators with these security related modifications. The actual number of Canadian aircraft to be modified is 544. Twenty-eight Canadian operators have applied for funding, and Transport Canada is currently finalizing agreements with them.

On the subject of restricted area passes, on November 5, 2002, the Minister of Transport announced plans for a national restricted area pass system. This announcement responds to one of the recommendations identified by the Airport Security Working Group.

Canada already has a very effective system in place for the establishment and security of restricted areas at airports. The enhancement of the system, including the use of biometrics, will enable Canada to remain among world leaders in this area. Transport Canada and CATSA will work in partnership with airport authorities to develop this enhanced pass system for non-passengers who require access to restricted areas at airports. It is anticipated that the system will include the use of centralized data banks supporting the issuance, verification, cancellation and tracking of restricted area passes.

Since 1986, Transport Canada has been conducting comprehensive background checks with the support of the RCMP and CSIS of those requiring restricted area passes. Airline pilots, crew, airport employees and everyone who requires unsupervised access to restricted areas at an airport is required to apply for a security clearance from the Minister of Transport.

Transport Canada is working with other departments and agencies to identify and implement ways to improve background checks. The departments and agencies involved in the screening process include the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and CSIS.

With respect to the screening of non-passengers, again, a recently announced initiative responded to the recommendations of the working group on airport security. On November 5, 2002, the minister asked CATSA to take on responsibility for an expanded program of screening of non-passengers who enter restricted areas at airports. Such individuals include airport and airline employees and others who work within the restricted areas of airports. CATSA will work with Transport Canada and industry stakeholders, including labour, to develop this enhanced program that will build on existing security requirements for people who have access to restricted areas at airports.

We recognize the importance of involving aviation stakeholders in the development of our regulations. We have a long history of consulting with stakeholders, including airlines and airport operators, labour unions, industry associations, public interest groups, law enforcement agencies, other government departments and other governments.

We have in place a formalized consultation mechanism, the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Committee, CARAC, which provides a consultation forum for the Civil Aviation Regulatory Program, which is designed to increase public access and participation in the rule-making process. CARAC is composed representatives from the aviation community, the Transport Canada Civil Aviation directorate and other interested parties.

Given the sensitivity surrounding security, a less formal process has been followed for amendments to aviation security regulations and requirements. Any amendments to aviation security regulations are developed in accordance with federal regulatory policy and follow the formal government consultation process, which includes publication in the Canada Gazette. For the development of or amendments to security measures, stakeholders who are directly affected and have a need for information in order to implement those measures are extensively consulted. They can include air carriers, airport operators, labour unions and law enforcement agencies.

The Airport Security Working Group has recommended that Transport Canada establish a more formal consultation mechanism for amendments to aviation security regulatory requirements, similar in nature to CARAC. Transport Canada agrees that a more formal consultation process is required. We will work directly with stakeholders in developing such an enhanced consultation mechanism. Key factors in developing an enhanced mechanism will be to increase stakeholder involvement in identifying and prioritizing regulatory issues and to provide a more structured forum for developing and implementing recommendations and proposals. We will, however, need to maintain the ability to move immediately to respond to threats in the aviation environment where such action is warranted.

CATSA has been given a significant role relating to the training of screeners. CATSA and Transport Canada are taking steps to revise those requirements for screeners and those who train them. This includes the use of modern techniques such as computer-based training. CATSA will be delivering consistent multi-level training courses to screeners on a national basis and has already made progress on improving training for screeners as well as instructors.

As the committee may already know, CATSA is in the process of rolling out the upgrade training for approximately 3,000 screening officers at airports across the country. The training focuses on three main areas of study: security, people skills and technology.

Once screening officers successfully create the level 3 upgrade training, they will be certified by CATSA. The training will be completed before December 31, 2002.

As part of Transport Canada's oversight role, the department will continue to develop regulatory standards and to monitor compliance against those standards.

To appropriately respond to the significant increase in demands on Transport Canada related to transportation security, Transport Canada is in the process of expanding its Security and Emergency Preparedness directorate. The organization is in the process of doubling in size to approximately 260 employees. Since September 11, we have hired an additional 46 inspectors to address significant workload requirements. The department is in the process of hiring another 55 inspectors for aviation security. This will result in the pre-September 11 security workforce being increased by 254 per cent.

Security inspectors monitor compliance with Transport Canada security measures. This includes verifying that appropriate access controls are in place for restricted areas, proper screening procedures are followed and response to alarms at pre-board screening points are within requirements.

The legal framework for aviation security includes a number of instruments. The Aeronautics Act provides authority for the making of regulations, orders and security measures. The CATSA Act sets out CATSA's responsibility. The security screening order specifies screening requirements. The aerodrome security measures and the air carrier security measures specify security requirements for airports and airlines.

Acts and regulations are, of course, available to the public. Access to security measures, however, is limited to those who are required to implement those measures.

Parliament has specifically recognized the need to keep some information confidential. Subsection 4.8(1) of the Aeronautics Act requires that some portions of the aviation security program not be disclosed to the public. Parliament has included similar provisions in other legislation, such as section 32 of the CATSA Act, which recognizes that certain information must be kept confidential in the interests of air transport or public security.

We are committed to provide the public with information concerning safety and security. In 1997, a joint industry- government committee, the Canadian Aviation Security Awareness Advisory Committee, was established to promote good security practices to aviation sector workers and members of the travelling public. Transport Canada recognizes the importance of security awareness and has already taken major steps following September 11 of last year in this regard. Examples include the pre-board screening awareness program for airline passenger service agents; over 1 million copies of the pamphlet ``Do you really need to take it with you?'' were distributed to airlines and travel agencies; the ``Fly Smart, Fly Secure'' campaign reached the public through posters, brochures and radio spots; and aviation security announcements have been featured on the Weather Network and Méteomédia. Additional announcements are scheduled between December and March.

Transport Canada recognizes that improving transportation security must be done in partnership with other government departments and agencies, other governments, stakeholders and the public. We need to continue to work to identify and make improvements on an ongoing basis, and we are committed to do so.

In closing, let me again thank the members of the committee for your interest in aviation security and for providing me with the opportunity to be with you here today. My colleagues and I would be happy to try to answer your questions.

Senator Day: I have two areas of questioning. The first area I would like to discuss is the secrecy issue that you touched on at the end of your presentation, Mr. Elliott; the other area will be the screening of passengers and employees and airside security.

First, with respect to the issue of secrecy, we have a mandate on behalf of the Senate of Canada to look into this issue of security. We have come up against a wall on a number of occasions in dealing with witnesses such as yourselves. You seem to have touched on a number of the points. The suggestion I would take from that is that you recognize that we have been disappointed in some of our previous hearings, and you are trying to deal with some of the issues and answer some of the questions that we have been asking.

As you indicated, we did not have a chance to study your document in detail. However, in your presentation, I did notice that you touched on some of the points.

From a general public policy point of view, we are still finding out from various witnesses that the interpretation of the Aeronautics Act and section 32 of the act to create the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority overly favours the secrecy side. I would like you to discuss with me a bit about what the public interest is and why you would think that, for example, some of the testing that you are doing can not be made public; that is to say, perhaps you could not tell us so that the public could be reassured in relation to the infiltration tests that you may be conducting to see whether the system is working. How is the public interest served in refusing to let us know some of the results of these audits that you are conducting?

Mr. Elliott: There certainly is a balance to be struck, on the one hand, with respect to providing information to give you and others a sense that money is being wisely invested and that reasonable measures are in place.

As I indicated in my remarks, the legislation that I referred to, and certainly the view of the Minister of Transport, is that fulsome information may in fact serve other ends and may indicate weaknesses in the current system that could be exploited.

Certainly, there is a requirement for Transport Canada and others to be held accountable with respect to the utilization of our resources. I note that the Auditor General has been appointed as the auditor for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. I note as well that the Auditor General has a broad mandate, granted by Parliament, to provide value-for-money audits. As the committee has already heard, the Auditor General has already embarked on that audit of expenditures post-September 11, 2001, in the security area.

In addition to the provisions of the Aeronautics Act that apply to other participants in air transport security, I am here on behalf of the Minister of Transport to provide you with information that the minister has authorized me to provide you. I can only provide you with information that the minister has authorized me to provide you. If there is additional information that you believe should be made available to you, that is a matter that you may wish to take up with the minister when he appears before you next week.

Senator Day: Can I take it from that last comment, Mr. Elliott, that you have sat down with the minister and other advisers to determine your interpretation of the Aeronautics Act and what you can reveal to us and what you should not reveal to us, and that this presentation today has been screened through that interpretation?

Mr. Elliott: I have had discussions with the minister and others, including the Department of Justice, with respect to the provision of the Aeronautics Act with respect to keeping things confidential. I have had discussions with the minister with respect to my appearance.

The Chairman: On that subject, I notice that you did not mention the Parliament of Canada Act, which trumps the Aeronautics Act in terms of your obligation to speak truthfully to committees and answer all of their questions.

Leaving the legalities aside, because we can have our lawyers argue with your lawyers until the cows come home, the fundamental question that Senator Day is trying to get to is this: Is the public interest really well-served without you providing adequate information so that they know that their money is being well spent?

Everyone in this room understands clearly that certain pieces of information must be kept from us. Let us take the example of a code to get through a door. No one on this committee wants to know the code that you have to punch in to get through the door. However, we do want to know that there is a lock on the door. The same would apply with the example that Senator Day gave you earlier that had to do with the testing of airport security systems.

None of us here want to know how your testers managed to slip weapons through the system. We all know that they have done that, but we do not want to know how they did it. Rather, we want to know their success rate because we would like to know whether the money is being well spent and whether some airports are safer than others. We believe that only public knowledge of these matters will cause improvements to take place.

We would like you to consider it in that context. If you do not have the confidence to answer that question, we respect that because you have to report to your boss. We would like you to convey that message to whomever you have to. We would like a broader consideration from the department on these issues because we intend to persist with these issues as long as we have to until we get satisfactory answers.

Senator Day: Mr. Elliott, just to expand on that a little more, our purpose for testing the security measures is to determine whether the public is being properly served. If the department decided that it could do more if it had more money, we would like to know about that.

If we think the failure rates are unacceptably high in your testing, once you tell us what they are, then we would urge that more funds be made available to create an acceptable situation. If we do not know and we cannot test, then we cannot make recommendations. That is the public interest we are trying to serve.

We are being told by many witnesses that because of the interpretation of the statutes we have talked about — the Aeronautics Act and section 32 of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA — certain information cannot be made available but ``trust us that everything is fine.'' Well, the Parliament of Canada and the Senate of Canada want to go behind the notion ``trust us that everything is fine'' and reassure the public that everything is fine.

That is all that I will ask with respect to the secrecy issue. However, I did want it on the record. I am sure you will take the message back to the minister that that is our concern and our mandate.

Mr. Elliott, I would like to talk to you about a screening area that came to light from CATSA witnesses who appeared before the committee; that is, the increased mandate from the minister with respect to screening individuals other than passengers, who are screened 100 per cent. However, the increased authority to CATSA to screen those who have need to be airside, to be on the aircraft or to service the aircraft or to work with baggage on the airport side of the aircraft, has been just recently given. We were told the other day that that is a random sampling, whereas the documentation that I have read on the mandate for increased authority and obligation does not mention ``random.'' Who made the decision that the screening of employees would be random, whereas the passenger screening is 100 per cent?

Mr. Elliott: The short answer to the senator's question is the cabinet and the Minister of Transport.

I would like to comment on the term ``random'' because that makes it sound as though screening is simply done based on a random sampling. It is fair to anticipate that the screening of non-passengers will be done in a number of circumstances. Certainly, if there were particular information relating to risk at a specific airport or with respect to specific categories of individuals or for specific time periods, screening would be targeted.

I would also mention that it is pretty early days with respect to this program. The announcement was made on November 5, and we are in the process of working with CATSA and airports to implement this program.

The Chairman: Mr. Elliott, we have a concern with these issues because of statements that we have heard from the Greater Toronto Airport Authority. For example, on the subject of airside workers, they have stated publicly that all airside workers are screened before they go to work. That means that the employees are put through a CSIS and a CPIC check. The CPIC check is done to know whether they have a criminal record, and the CSIS check is done to know whether they are on a CSIS list and whether they are persons of interest to CSIS.

This committee is of the view that that is not a thorough check. It is a minimal, negative check, and one is not left with a good understanding, other than that certain employees have not come to the attention of the authorities, so far. However, the implication given to the public when the statement was made by the GTAA — that every airside worker was screened before they went to work — gave the impression that employees were thoroughly checked and searched just like passengers are checked and searched. We have arrived at a point where we find ourselves looking at statements carefully to see what precisely is meant by those statements.

We have reached the point that we are not always certain what people mean. It sounds awfully good when someone says, ``Well, CSIS has checked these people out and CPIC has checked these people out.'' Suddenly you are invoking the Scarlet Tunic and the cloak and dagger guys. It sounds like it is a terrific check, but the reality is that it is not a terrific check. It is the bottom, bare minimum level check that you can provide. As a consequence, we have some concerns.

Mr. Elliott: I would agree that the term ``screened'' or ``screening'' is a confusing and unfortunate term. We do use the word ``screening'' with respect to the security check carried out under the requirements of the Aeronautics Act and regulations for background checks as a precondition to an airport granting a Restricted Area Pass. We also use screening in the context of searching. If I may, for the purposes of our discussion today, I will talk about the searching of passengers and the background checking of airport workers.

With respect to the background checks for airport workers, I would agree with the suggestion that doing background checks is not, in and of itself, sufficient to provide for security. The fact is, however, I believe that the program established following the Air India disaster is a good one; it is one layer of security. The background check that is conducted is multi-faceted. There is a criminal records check and, as you indicated, CSIS is involved with respect to its activities. There is also verification of employment, residence and a credit history.

You are completely right, Mr. Chairman, to indicate that a good record is not necessarily indicative of good behaviour in the future. However, I believe that the background of an individual is relevant with respect to an assessment of the risk that he or she may pose. It certainly is not a foolproof system, and we are looking at improving it. The system is, in my understanding, looked upon with some jealousy by authorities in other jurisdictions, including our neighbours to the south who are in the process of establishing a system similar to the one that we have in place.

As you have heard from other witnesses, we believe that the proper approach to security is to one that is multi- levelled. I believe that is why the minister has announced a program for the screening of people who have the Restricted Area Pass.

The Chairman: More to the point, we heard sworn testimony in June from officials who work in your department. They advised us that, with respect to screening and searching — background checks and searching — your department was not doing a regular search, any search for that matter, or at least infrequent searches, of airside workers because the department was endeavouring to build a relationship of trust with those workers. That was the message given by one of your officials to explain the inadequate searching that was being done of airside workers.

Mr. Elliott: The introduction of the searching of people who hold restricted area passes has certainly been a controversial issue. I mentioned the creation of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee. We heard very strongly from some pilots and the pilots' unions, for example, that they took any move to search their members as an indication of a lack of trust on the part of the Government of Canada.

The Chairman: This was not in the context of pilots or flight attendants; this was in the context of people who are working on the ground: groomers, fuelers, baggage handlers and caterers. These are the folks who are wandering through the gates without anyone saying hello to them or looking at their badges and who have testified here under oath that they find the guards asleep at the gate on occasion.

Mr. Elliott: In response to a question posed earlier, I am not here to tell you today that everything is okay with respect to aviation security in Canada. I believe that if it was the government's view that everything was okay with aviation security in Canada, the Minister of Finance would not have allocated $2.2 billion for improvements to the system. There are improvements that need to be made, including access controls to restricted areas in airports. There are provisions in place with respect to access. We are aware that the system has flaws.

We believe that the introduction of passes incorporating biometrics, the introduction of computer technology in support of the issuance, cancellation and tracking of those passes, and the searching of airport workers will improve the current status quo.

The Chairman: Given that the RCMP and retired metro police officers have testified under oath before this committee that there are organized criminal gangs functioning at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority — they have listed the gangs for us — is it still the policy of your department to deal with the ground workers with the view to developing an atmosphere of trust with them, or will you start checking them?

Mr. Elliott: Our desire would be to build an atmosphere of trust with all involved in aviation security. As I mentioned earlier, everyone who works in restricted areas at airports is subject to the current program with respect to background checks. Everyone who works in restricted areas at airports will be the subject of the screening program that the minister announced on November 5.

I think there is, frankly, a challenge with respect to background checks. As I have said, the absence of a criminal record, for example, is not a guarantee of good behaviour. However, with respect to the denying of a clearance, for example, there does have to be reasonable criteria reasonably applied on which to make a decision to either grant or not grant a clearance. The granting or not granting of a security clearance by the Minister of Transport is reviewable by the Federal Court and by the committee — the name of which escapes me — that reviews the operations of the RCMP.

If there was information with respect to a particular individual or group of individuals that raised concerns about their security, then, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that the screening program for those individuals at airports would react to those concerns.

The Chairman: And the searching program?

Mr. Elliott: I am sorry. I meant the searching program.

Senator Day: Mr. Elliott, can you confirm for us whether the background checks are being done quickly and that there are no potential employees at the airports working on aircraft who are there on a temporary pass until a background check is done?

Mr. Elliott: There is a provision for people working at airports to be in the restricted areas prior to background checks being completed. The requirement is that an individual who has a completed background check escort them. There are requirements with respect to that person's responsibility for the individual that he or she is supervising.

We are implementing measures to speed up the conducting of background checks. Transport Canada has invested considerable resources with respect to automatic fingerprint identification systems, which will allow the verification of criminal records in a matter of minutes as opposed to a matter of weeks.

Senator Day: Mr. Elliott, in your comments, you stated that:

Canada already has a very effective system in place for the establishment and security of restricted areas at airports.

Then you go on to talk about introducing biometrics.

We learned, while we were in Vancouver, that when one of the airlines went bankrupt, there were a lot of passes floating around that were never collected. Is that part of the ``very effective system'' that was in place? What steps have you taken to correct that sort of situation until you get the biometrics in place?

Mr. Elliott: As I indicated, there certainly is a need for improvement and the system is certainly less than perfect. However, with respect to a bankrupt airline, the current pass would indicate the employer of an individual holding a pass. If someone presented a pass issued in his or her capacity as an employee for a defunct entity, that certainly should cause the person supervising the access point to deny entry.

There are also requirements under our current rules with respect to the verification of passes and the identity of individuals. That system currently is cumbersome. It is cumbersome because it is paper-based. An individual at an access door has to go through a list of pass numbers to check whether the pass being presented by an individual has been revoked or not. Certainly, the use of biometrics and databases, we believe, will significantly improve the ability to revoke and track passes. Frankly, that will make it even less relevant whether a pass is physically returned. There are provisions now in the regulations that require passes to be returned. We do investigate and take enforcement action, but the current system is cumbersome.

The Chairman: On the point that you have raised, Mr. Elliott, it seems bizarre to the members of the committee that you would have a system of checking passes that have been revoked. The committee has heard sworn testimony that it is possible to counterfeit the passes, that anyone can go to Kinko's and reproduce those passes. Passes of that nature will never be on a revoked list because they were never on your active list. Why do you not check active passes instead of revoked passes?

Mr. Elliott: I suspect the short answer to that question is that it has to do with the number of passes.

I certainly agree that the current system is inadequate and needs to be improved, which is what we are in the process of doing.

Senator Banks: That is not exactly what you said in your presentation. You said that it was very effective, and you just now said that it is not very effective.

I would like to get colloquial for a moment because we are concerned about whether the money involved is being well spent in ensuring Canadians that their interests in terms of safety are being looked after. We are also concerned about doing the best we can to make Canadian air travel safe.

In the course of our study of safety at airports, which has been going on for many months, we have heard testimony from all the stakeholders about whom you spoke. We have visited airports and been in the areas in which these things operate.

I have come to the conclusion that there are many fingers in the pie, many cooks, many interests being served and many bailiwicks being protected. There is an old French vaudeville act, the rolling punch line of which is ``After you Alphonse; no after you Gaston.'' We are getting an awful lot of that.

There does not seem to be a direct answer to the following question: Who exactly is in charge here? To let you know where my questions are coming from, I think that Canadians travellers would like someone to stand up and say, ``I am responsible for security at airports and on airplanes in this country, and I will address the problem, ensure that these things are fixed, and break down all of these walls of bailiwick protection and lack of communication.''

This morning, you talked about following groups having to do with airline and airport security Transport Canada: CARAC, CATSA, CAC, ASAC, the AS Working Group, the Security and Emergency Preparedness directorate and CASAAC. We have yet to talk about the various police agencies that have to deal with the question.

We are having a hard time finding out the answer to the question: Who is in charge here? That is the background of my question.

Specifically, I would like you to pretend that we are making a Disney-type documentary and I am a piece of luggage that gets checked in. We meet someone at an airplane and give him or her a piece of checked luggage. All of us who travel know what happens with our carry-on luggage. It is searched, and most of us are happy that it is searched thoroughly. None of us mind standing in those lineups any more.

What happens to the bag I give to the check-in attendant? I am asked if I have left the bag unattended, whether I packed it myself, and if anyone asked me to carry anything. I have my boarding pass, and I am gone.

What happens to that bag now? Does someone look at it before I get it at the other end?

Mr. Elliott: The answer to your question is, unfortunately, it depends. It depends to some extent on who you are. It depends to some extent where you are travelling.

Senator Banks: Eliminate Reagan airport.

Mr. Elliott: Your bag could be searched by physical or other means; that is, by x-ray or explosives detection or dogs.

Senator Banks: Is it?

Mr. Elliott: In too many cases, the answer to your question is no.

Senator Banks: You said that you thought that that was coming pretty soon.

Mr. Elliott: The billion dollars is largely being spent on CATSA explosives detection systems.

Senator Banks: Remind me when that will be operative.

Mr. Elliott: The internationally agreed date is January 1, 2006. CATSA is well on its way to meeting that date. We are encouraging them to provide for 100 per cent screening in advance of that.

I can tell you with certainty that there is more likelihood of your bag being searched today than there was on or before September 11 last year.

Senator Banks: We have to go on the basis of what we have seen, on the one hand, and what we have heard in sworn testimony on the other. I will ask you to give us some quantifying answer.

Thus far, the testimony that we have heard and the things we have seen would lead us to believe that there is no screening done, aside from going to Reagan airport. There is no checking done of checked baggage. We have heard sworn testimony to that effect from baggage handlers and we have seen it in baggage handling areas. The baggage goes there and no one looks at it. There is no screening. No dog sniffed it. It did not go through any machine.

Can you tell us, on some quantitative basis such as a percentage of frequency, if some checked baggage is now being searched, looked at, checked, sniffed, put through a vapour machine or checked for altitude detonation? Are there occasional looks at that?

Mr. Elliott: Yes.

Senator Banks: Can you give me a percentage?

Mr. Elliott: I am not in a position to do that. We are working toward 100 per cent.

Senator Banks: You know the percentage, but cannot tell us; is that it?

Mr. Elliott: I do not know the precise percentage.

Senator Banks: Does someone know? I would be happy if you said, ``I think it is around 5 per cent,'' which would be a good answer,'' or ``It is getting close to 50 per cent.'' I am not looking for a precise figure.

Mr. Elliott: Between Transport Canada and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, we do know the answer. It may not be a specific answer, but we have an idea.

Senator Banks: What is it, ballpark?

Mr. Elliott: I am not in a position to give you that information.

Senator Banks: That is one of the things that the chairman was talking about. What harm would it do? The bad guys already know the answer to the question. We understand sort of who they are, and we have actually had to deal with them.

If the bad guys know the answer to the question, we think it would be a good idea if we knew the answer. I do not understand why it would be untoward or contrary to the public interest in any sense — including the Aeronautics Act, even if the Parliament of Canada Act did not trump it — that we should know a ballpark answer to that question.

You have told us that we are aiming at 100 per cent. Where are we now? What is the score today? I do not see how that is contrary to the public interest.

Mr. Elliott: I understand your question and concern. I will relay them to the minister.

Senator Banks: Would you ask the minister if he could authorize you to inform our clerk as to that ballpark number?

Mr. Elliott: I would be happy to do that.

The Chairman: In the absence of a response, we will go with the sworn testimony.

Senator Banks: That is what we have heard so far.

I hope, by the way, that you do achieve the 100 per cent goal, as you suggest, sooner rather than later.

You referred to mail. I would like to ask the same question that I did before. Let us pretend that we are making a documentary to follow this piece of mail from the time I stick it into a mailbox and it gets to the other end.

If I understand correctly, you said that when mail is delivered to you by Canada Post, they give you a certificate saying, ``We have jumped through the following hoops in terms of the security of this mail.'' You then put it on an airplane, and it goes to Canada Post at the other end for distribution.

Do you know whether anyone actually screens any of that mail? In other words, could I put contraband or something worse into a piece of mail, which is easy to do, and get it on to an airplane without anyone having looked at it?

Mr. Elliott: My understanding is the answer to that question yes. With respect to passenger bags, we are moving from a system of searching bags for cause to a system of searching bags universally.

My understanding is that the system we now have with respect to mail — and I know that the committee has heard testimony from Canada Post — relates to cause.

Another comment I would like to make is that I am certainly here today with the intention of being truthful with the committee. I tell you that there are checked bags today being searched in airports in Canada.

The Chairman: We understood that. Senator Banks understood that. The difficulty is when you say there are bags being searched, the committee is left with the perception that it might be 1 per cent of bags that are searched. That does not give us much comfort. If you say that you started off at zero or only with suspicious bags, and now you are rolling out a system and, by 2006, you will be checking every bag and be comfortable with it, then no one would be more pleased than this committee to hear you say that. What we want to know is this: If you were starting there, and you plan to end up here, what progress are you making along the way? Are you finding problems? Do you think you will make it on time? Do you think the systems you have are sufficient, or will you need different systems to be successful? Those are the things that would be of great assistance to this committee in assessing whether the $12 tax being collected on every flight is being well spent and whether Canadians can have confidence in their system. The purpose of this hearing is to provide that confidence, if we can get the information.

Senator Banks: Are a significantly larger number of checked bags being looked at now than was the case on September 10, 2001? Have we had a reaction?

Mr. Elliott: A significantly larger number of bags are being searched now than were being searched prior to September 11.

Senator Banks: Does that include domestic flights?

Mr. Elliott: I am less certain about that.

Senator Banks: In the context of these questions, I am always excluding Reagan airport because I know about Reagan.

There are all kinds of things in the belly of an airplane, including the checked bags. There is also cargo. If I walk up to an Air Canada cargo depot and send a package addressed to my maiden aunt in Corner Brook, is there any possibility of that package being examined on its way to Corner Brook to determine what is in it? You said that you were aiming for 100 per cent of the checked baggage. Will cargo, which I send for a fee on an airplane, be subject to the same scrutiny? Are we in the same place? are we going to the same place and is the time line the same?

Mr. Elliott: I do not think we have established exactly where we need to go or how soon we need to get there with respect to cargo.

Senator Banks: If I were a bad guy and wanted to send a dead cat, or something worse, on an airplane to someone I did not like and I found out that by 2004 you had succeeded in testing 100 per cent of checked luggage, knowing that we already check 100 per cent of carry-on luggage, I would have to figure out how to get something on that airplane. I would go down to the cargo office if I did not know that you were going to aim at the same level of security screening of cargo as you are for other stuff that goes on to an airplane. Is there any contemplation of the fact that bad guys simply are not stupid?

Mr. Elliott: I think we are well aware that bad guys are not stupid. In fact, we are concerned that too many bad guys are very smart. However, there are certainly differences in our regime with respect to air cargo and air passengers and bags. It is not dissimilar to the differences with respect to the screening of people and cargo in other modes, particularly other modes of bringing goods to Canada.

Senator Banks: I have a final question, which is almost rhetorical, but is behind my thinking and I think some of the thinking of other senators as well.

If there were a clear and present danger, how long do you think it would take you and I and Ms. Luloff and Mr. Barrette and a couple of airport managers to sit down and fix all these things? I think it would take a week if there were a clear and present danger. It is a rhetorical question, to which there is no answer. It is just that some of us think that there is a clear and present danger.

The Chairman: Did you wish to comment, Mr. Elliott?

Mr. Elliott: The only comment I have is that there is a huge volume of passengers and cargo travelling into out of and around Canada. There is a balance to be struck with respect to security on the one hand and the facilitation of the free flow of people and goods on the other.

My involvement with transportation security before and after September 11, 2001, has, if anything, driven home the complexity of trying to provide an adequate level of security in the system and society in which we live.

The Chairman: We also appreciate that it is a moving target that has evolved.

Senator Meighen: You made reference in your presentation to the $2.2 billion that was provided for aviation security initiatives in the 2001 budget to be spent over the coming years. At the present time, airport authorities are spending money on security. For the record, can you tell me where the money that they are now spending comes from? Is there money flowing into their coffers other than the $12 fee we all pay?

Mr. Elliott: I would agree that airport authorities are spending money on security. They spent money on security prior to September 2001 and they are spending more money now. There have been some limited contributions by the federal government to airport security, principally in relation to policing, as I mentioned in my remarks. There were also contributions for policing and other security costs incurred in the immediate aftermath of September 11. Airports generally finance their security expenditures through their other revenues, which include charges that they levy on carriers, passengers and others, rents they collect and airport improvement fees. I must confess that I am not an expert on the financial workings of Canadian airports.

Senator Meighen: With respect specifically to the limited amounts that the federal government has turned over to airport authorities for security expenditures, as well as generally speaking for the other monies that they raise themselves, do you conduct any audit of these expenditures? Is there any way you know and, through you, the public knows that the money raised for security is being spent on security and is being spent efficiently on security?

Mr. Elliott: Perhaps I could clarify that the money being raised for security most often talked about is the air travel security fee levied by the Department of Finance and collected by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Except for the modest contribution programs to which I have referred, none of that money goes to airports.

With respect to the collection of fees from airports, I do not know the answer to the senator's question. I would be happy to raise that with my colleagues who deal with economic policy relating to airports and provide through your clerk, Mr. Chairman, an answer to the senator's question.

With respect to the expenditure of funds by the Government of Canada, the overseer of those expenditures include the Treasury Board and the Auditor General.

Senator Meighen: The Department of Transport Canada, I understand it, signs leases with airport authorities; is that correct?

Mr. Elliott: Transport Canada signs leases with airport authorities, yes.

Senator Meighen: Under those leases, you have the right to audit.

Mr. Elliott: I believe so, but I do not deal with airport leases.

Senator Meighen: If I told you that the Auditor General has told us that she has no right to audit and referred to us the airport leases, would that strike you as an accurate statement?

Mr. Elliott: I am afraid I do not know whether it is accurate or not.

Senator Meighen: Can you find out whether you do conduct an audit and confirm that under leases signed by Transport Canada with airport authorities there is a provision for such audit?

Mr. Elliott: I would be happy to find that information for the committee, yes.

Senator Meighen: Can you tell me to what extent, if any, the resources of the department are devoted toward the management of these airport authority leases that you enter into? Is there someone assigned to negotiate them and follow them?

Mr. Elliott: I introduced myself as the Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security. The department has a number of other assistant deputy ministers. My colleague Ron Sully is the Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs and Divestiture. It is he and his group who are responsible for dealing with airports on questions of leases. My colleagues in the policy group, which is headed by another Assistant Department Minister, Kristine Burr, deal largely with economic issues related to aviation.

The Chairman: We understand that. Senator Meighen is pursuing this line of questioning because the Auditor General led us to believe, when she testified before us last week, that the only leverage or control that the department has over these airports is through a lease, which struck us as a remarkable way to control airports and to impact on how they perform.

Mr. Elliott: The Minister of Transport shares the view that the chair has just expressed and has indicated that he intends to bring forward legislation to recommend to Parliament that the relationship between the federal Crown and airports be governed by legislation. I am not saying that leases will not continue to be relevant, but the minister has indicated that he believes legislation is appropriate.

Senator Meighen: In the meantime, knowing there is many a delay between intention and legislation and given your kind undertaking to investigate or let us know whether audits are conducted by the department pursuant to the leases entered into with the airport authorities, could you let us know whether these audits can be made public, if they are carried out? The same would apply to audits conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, or whomever, with respect to embassies abroad. Audits are conducted of embassies abroad and those audits are made public. I am interested in knowing whether any audits that you may conduct pursuant to the leases could be made public.

Mr. Elliott: I would be happy to seek an answer to the senator's question.

The Chairman: You commented earlier, Mr. Elliott, that the funding that the government provided post-September 11 was to enhance policing at the airports. This committee has received sworn testimony from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that in the case of Pearson airport, for example, the total number of police — that is, RCMP, plainclothes, uniformed, Peel Regional — prior to September 11 was 290 police officers. It is currently 162, which seems like a significant reduction. If the money is going toward the police, could you inquire, prior to coming back to see us, as to whether similar reductions have taken place at other airports across the country? If they have, we would be curious to know why. If it is just Pearson, we would also be curious to know whether there is a reason for Pearson's reduction in police as well.

Mr. Elliott: The policing question at airports is another complicated one. We have requirements with respect to specific policing requirements at specific airports. However, the provision of police services at airports is far broader than that either mandated by or within the mandate of Transport Canada.

At Pearson, arrangements are in place between the Peel Regional Police and the GTAA with respect to policing related to a far broader number of things than our current requirements relate to. There are also both uniformed and non-uniformed RCMP officers at Pearson about which we have no direct knowledge as far as I am aware and no direct role as far as I am aware.

The Chairman: We understand that and we understand that the RCMP role at Pearson has different functions. Having said that, it is quite a remarkable difference in the number of police and does not give one the impression that we have enhanced policing capability at the airport, especially when the numbers went from 290 post-September 11 to 162 thereafter. That seems like a significant drop.

Mr. Elliott: Transport Canada's requirements with respect to policing at airports have not decreased since September 11. In fact, they have increased, albeit informally. We will be increasing our requirements. Whether that actually translates into more officers at Pearson is another question.

The Chairman: As long as you acquaint yourself with the issue, we will be asking you questions about it.

Regarding the schedule on Monday, if you could please make yourself available at 10:30 a.m., we would be most grateful. The clerk of the committee will be in touch with you for other details. Several members of the committee have not had the occasion to ask questions of you. We also have not had an opportunity to work through the list of issues that we want to address with you.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you and your colleagues for appearing before us. It has been of great assistance to the committee. We look forward to hearing from you further on Monday.

To those of you at home following our work, please visit our Web site by going to www.sen/sec.ca, where we post witness testimony as well as confirmed hearing schedules. Otherwise, you may contact the clerk of the committee by calling 1-800-267-7362 for further information or assistance in contacting members of the committee.

The committee adjourned.