Canada’s no-fly list: Who really controls Canadian airspace?

I wish I could answer the above question with absolute certainty. One thing is certain: Canada is not the only decision-maker when it comes to refusing air travellers on overseas trips, and on some selected domestic flights which pass through U.S. airspace. This fact made many civil rights activists question whether Canada has lost its airspace sovereignty.

I do not think the issue of the no-fly list (and its sister lists such as the screening list,) which operates under the nicely-labelled “Passenger Protect Program,” has received the attention it deserves. Is it because only a segment of the population is affected (as those affected happen to be Muslims)? Or is it because the Canadian and the U.S. governments have kept a shroud of secrecy on how this list works and operates? All I know is that the negative impact of this list on civil liberties and on the lives of many innocent human beings has been significant: Lives have been destroyed, professionals who rely on their business travel to the U.S. to earn their living lost their main source of income, and worse of all, the psychological scars endured by those who are targeted by the list persist and may never go away.

The fundamental problem of this list is not that it exists, but rather the fact that there is no credible and speedy recourse for people to clear their names once they are placed on it.

The Canadian government position has so far been is that its citizenry should blindly trust its actions vis-à-vis this matter. Knowing that a lot of mistakes have happened, and that the threshold required to place people’s names on this list is very low, makes the government’s position extremely hard to digest. In fact, simply knowing people who are under surveillance or investigation might land your name on this list. This unjustified violation of basic civil liberties, and the abuse of private information, raised the eyebrows of Canada’s privacy czar who warned that the actions taken by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority could amount to racial profiling.

The following few publicized stories will tell volumes about the Kafkaesque nature of this no-fly list (many people, particularly Muslims, choose not to report abuses they suffer at airports for fear of reprisals).

Shahid Mahmood is an editorial cartoonist. He travelled to Chile with his family at the end of last year. Upon arriving in Santiago airport, he was arrested by the police and questioned by the Interpol. The interrogation lasted for more than 90 minutes. Mahmood’s initial problems started in 2004 when he was refused boarding on a domestic flight that would have taken him from Vancouver to Victoria. Until this day Mahmood does not have the answers he needs, but he speculates that it might be his anti-American cartoons that may have landed his name on the no-fly list.

Dawood Hepplewhite is a British Muslim who divides his time between Toronto, the hometown of his wife, and Sheffield, England, where he resides. He was not allowed to board an Air Canada flight back to England. No one could provide him with a straight answer for why this happened to him; not Air Transat, not the British Embassy in Ottawa, and certainly not Transport Canada. Mr. Hepplewhite suspects that he was flagged as a terror suspect because of a recent visit he had made to Yemen for a job interview. After the news of his story broke, the British Embassy intervened and allowed him a one-way ticket back home.

Montrealer Mohammed Khan was coming back from his native country Bangladesh, where he was on a visit. Air Canada didn’t allow him to board the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Montreal because his name was on a “blacklist.” Khan decided to buy a costly British Airways ticket (which apparently had no issue allowing him on board) so that he could home sooner rather than later. Air Canada cleared him around the same time he decided to fly on British Airways. The airlines attributed this mishap to the fact that similar names appeared on the no-fly list.

The list is long: Adil Charkaoui, a former security certificate detainee, was not allowedto fly back from New Brunswick to Montreal, Abdullah al-Malki, a torture survivor, was prevented from boarding a flight that would have taken him from Ottawa to Windsor where he was supposed to speak about his experience. There is also the story of former Guantanamo detainee and human rights activist Moazzam Begg who was detained in Montreal and refused entry to Canada (watch the Prism TV video in which Mr. Begg recounts his experience.) There are countless other examples that the affected people only speak about in private for fear of reprisal.

The situation is only getting worse. A recent article posted on the Independentwebsite, confirms that passengers wishing to fly from the U.K. to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa or Halifax have to first be cleared by Homeland Security at least 72 hours before boarding the flight. This is now the norm thanks in part to the passing of Bill C-42 in Canadian parliament last year. The bill, which was approved by all parties except the NDP, forces all airlines to pass on the full information of all passengers travelling to and from Canada to Homeland Security for clearance. What is done with the information once it is in the hands of Homeland Security is not something theapproved bill examined or took into account. Knowing the past, it does not take a genius to know what will ultimately happen.

Of course, I have my own stories with the no-fly list, or more specifically with the Canadian screening list, which I prefer to write about in a future blog post.

Special thanks go to Rock Tassé from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) for providing the links to some of the references quoted in this post. This article was first published in Prism Magazine.

Muslim Women, Niqab & Modesty

Interesting discussion.

You can learn more about sister Fatima here:

Rochdale Sex Crimes – Are they a product of the Pakistani Ghetto or Liberalism?

Rochdale Sex Crimes – Are they a product of the Pakistani Ghetto or Liberalism?





For certain, had these men been white Anglo-Saxons, the media coverage and the reaction would have been different; an isolated group of criminals only, with no reference to their racial or cultural identity. This is how for example serial killers are often portrayed. Take the example of the 8 Scottish paedophile gang convicted in 2009 [1] who were caught raping babies, not consenting young teenagers like the Rochdale case, the news went unnoticed. Similarly, the recent case in Cornwall [2] also slipped under the media radar. There was no attempt to cast a slur on the wider community, based on the actions of these culprits.


In contrast, based on the actions of the 9 culprits in Rochdale, the media and certain politicians have been busy tarnishing the Pakistani community, which is almost a million or more in the UK. The notion of proportion and logic is discarded when there is an underlying agenda; predictably, the usual Islamophobes to the closet racists have come out blaming it on race and culture, the more daft elements of the far right are blaming religion.


We have become accustomed to semi-literate Islamophobes lacking in primary education, claiming how Islam promotes rapes. They can just about utter Sharia as ‘shooria’ or ‘muslamic’ law and rant about ‘alal’ meat as if they have discerning taste after a dose of alcohol. How is it possible for any religion to allow a clear sin? Islamic law, like the other Abrahamic faiths prohibits even consensual sex outside marriage, and by greater reason rape is given the severest punishment. You are far more likely to find rapists amongst the sexually liberal party goers than the devout Muslims in the Mosques.  If you want to blame religion, then blame the religion of secularism.


If we analyse this crime in the northern city of Rochdale, it has three components: drugs and alcohol, vulnerable young girls, and depraved men driven by lust – real life sexual predators.


As a society, we don’t just tolerate alcohol, but promote its consumption. Unlike alcohol, others forms of drugs such as cocaine, heroine and marijuana are technically illegal; however, trends amongst stars in the film and music industry often endorse it as something fashionable. By its consumption it will make you stand out from the rest is the implicit message, like violence is implicitly promoted through the violence of the good guys. Thus, the society is guilty in allowing and ‘promoting’ such substances in the first place. In contrast, Islam prohibits such all forms of intoxicants categorically; hence these men have acted in accordance with the values of the liberal West by using the intoxicants. I am sure the Islamophobes by now are dazed!


The next component is the vulnerable young girls in care. For sure, the racial or religious identity of these girls would not have mattered to the 9 Pakistani men. They were seen as easy meat to prey on. Although the personal circumstances of these girls are not known, the fact that they are in care already tells us something; they have come from broken homes, which is a product of society and nothing to do with Pakistani culture. On the contrary, such a phenomenon is rare among Pakistanis as girls are always protected by their families. The liberals call it oppression as they are denied freedom.  The same argument is applicable to the native white population, where conservative values are upheld through the traditional family unit, which keeps them protected from sexual predators.


Then comes the last component – these depraved men who acted with the opportunity to prey on these girls. The supply side is clear, demographics and liberal values that produce broken homes mean young white girls will be more in supply than girls from other ethnic backgrounds. The media is reluctant to acknowledge this pertinent point.


As for the demand side, for these men the main component is opportunity, in conjunction with living in a liberal society which is highly sexualised. Isn’t sex promoted at every level without responsibility and consequence? Hence, their desire overtook their cultural values, which prohibits consensual sex outside marriage with anyone, let alone forcing someone using intoxicants.


In short, the men acted in accordance with the liberal culture of the west, the use of drugs, opportunities provided by the easy access to vulnerable girls, and their sexual instinct agitated by a sexually charged society. However, that does not mean the men have no responsibility for their deeds, but one needs to point out the wider collective guilt, which nobody is acknowledging and passing the buck, describing it as a foreign cultural or racial problem, a nasty Pakistani import in the language of the far right.


Finally, what about justice for these young vulnerable girls? The lenient punishment given is not a fitting compensation for the loss of dignity and the permanent psychological scars; therefore, it will hardly constitute a form of deterrent for others. This reflects how society and the legal system value such crimes in the first place, which in turn shows how little they value the dignity of women. So much for women’s rights! It is not Islam, it is liberalism that facilitates such crimes and these criminals would have been crucified in a Sharia court, and not housed and fed in a relatively comfortable prison. The girls are collateral damage – because alcohol, drugs and a liberal sexual society is more important, and to hell with the consequences.




Yamin Zakaria (


Published on 16/05/2012


London, UK