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Exemption from Security Screening

June 22, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, my next question again is for the government leader. Leader, La Presse reported yesterday that Minister Sajjan, the Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, sought an exemption from having to go through security in our airports. This exemption, leader, is reserved for the Prime Minister of Canada and his immediate family, the Governor General of Canada and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Leader, after Transport Canada initially refused Minister Sajjan’s request, he tried again and was successful. Your government has apparently given him a partial exemption from airport security measures that countless other Canadians — you and I — have to go through.

Could you tell us why? How many other Trudeau cabinet ministers are now going to ask for the same exemption?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

I am advised that the minister is often required to travel with classified material and equipment between Ottawa and his residence in British Columbia. To ensure that classified materials and equipment are not viewed by officials without the appropriate security clearance, officials are granted this exemption — it’s a partial exemption — to the search of security-sensitive materials and for those materials only. The minister and his personal belongings still go through security — which often includes secondary screening — on all domestic flights, like any other Canadian.

I have no other information with regard to any other requests for exemptions.

Reportedly, Minister Sajjan requested this exemption because, as you say, he carries classified information.

I find it strange that the minister would request this exemption now, as prior to his demotion last year, Minister Sajjan had been the Minister of National Defence. In his old cabinet post, he would have carried much more sensitive documents than he does in his current position as Minister of International Development.

The press also reported that former finance minister Bill Morneau once sought an exemption and was denied. Clearly, that policy has changed.

Leader, your government has created chaos in our airports. Instead of dealing with this issue, it looks like ministers are giving themselves additional privileges so they don’t have to suffer through security screenings like all other Canadians.

Is every Trudeau cabinet minister now entitled to bypass airport screening every time they travel with sensitive documents?

Senator Gold [ + ]

The answer is no. To the best of my knowledge, this was the only request. I repeat that the exemption that was granted was partial only. The minister still has to go through regular security screening, save and except for the equipment and documents that are classified and not appropriate for review by the officials.

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