Canadian Senate finds widespread airport security problems

Published 3 April 2007

Lax screening and access control procedures cited; Toronto airport noted as a hub of gang activity

Oh, Canada! A recent review of airport security by the Canadian Senate finds that our nothern brothers are suffering airport security problems that make Miami look like a kindergarten. At the same time that organized criminal gangs have been steadily infiltrating Canadian airports, and as passenger loads increase as well, the total number of security forces is on the decline, with a police contingent at Toronto airport having declined from 290 officers in 1995 to 162 officers in 2005. This is no small matter, especially as other security systems seem to be lacking themselves. In one case, a reporter recently managed to obtain a badge and uniform from an employee who left two years ago. “All one has to do is insert a picture and a false name … after that, moving around freely on the tarmac is no problem since airport security agents can only rely on an impressively thick list of lost or stolen badges,” the reporter explained.

As if this were not shocking enough, background checks performed on potential employees are rarely sufficient and merely check for convictions. Employees are also never screened when entering or exiting restricted areas, making it easy to carry bombs in and drugs out. Airmail and cargo is also rarely inspected and almost never scanned. Security at private terminals is just as horrendous, with the screening of passengers and cargo being handled by private contractors who are only accountable to the terminal operator, but not to the airport manager. “If we could reduce the following pages to a few words,” the report’s authors write, “they would be these: Let’s smarten up, before it’s too late.”

The report, naturally enough, criticized the government for such oversights and has laid out numerous recommendations. These included: an increase in police and security guards at all the airports, possibly leading to an increase number of contracts given to private security firms; the widespread deployment of geofencing and biometrics security systems to combat easy access to restricted areas; and improved multi-layered scanning equipment to plug gaps associated with airmail and cargo shipments. Overall, more security related contracts are expected to be issued in order to meet the report’s expectations.