Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this debate.
As members know, the anti-terrorism act, 2015, contains a number of important changes that would strengthen Canada's national security. Among many proposed amendments is a well-considered approach to expanding the mandate of the passenger protection program through the creation of the secure air travel act. This will be the focus of my remarks today.
As everyone should be aware, the international jihadi movement has declared war on Canada and our allies. Canadians have been targeted because these jihadi terrorists hate our freedom and open, tolerant way of life. This is why we introduced this important legislation, which would enhance the government's capacity to identify and mitigate threats to Canada, Canadian interests abroad and our foreign partners.
In so doing, it would be an effective complement to the Combating Terrorism Act, which came into force in July 2013. Unfortunately, the NDP opposed this important measure, effectively voting to allow terrorists to travel without consequence.
The 2014 public report on the terrorist threat to Canada made it clear that our country remained a target for jihadi terrorists. That report included a focus on the government's response to violent extremism and travel abroad for terrorist-related purposes.
The threat of Canadians travelling abroad to participate in jihadi terrorist activities is a significant security challenge and a priority for our Conservative government. Since the threats Canadians face at home are typically connected to developments abroad, it stands to reason that securing Canada's air transportation links to the world must be a priority of our Conservative government. This is why we have proposed these legislative measures to expand the mandate of the passenger protect program to address both threats to transportation security and terrorist travel by air.
Currently Canada uses several mutually reinforcing screening tools to protect the safety and security of Canadian and international air travellers. Passports are a key identifier used by border officers in combination with physical screening of air travellers to reduce the chances of allowing a person with malicious intent or dangerous items to board an aircraft. In an average year, the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority screens more than 50 million travellers at Canadian airports.
As members may recall, our Conservative government launched the passenger protect program under the Aeronautics Act in 2007. This program screens passengers to identify threats to transportation security and uses measures such as denial of boarding to mitigate those threats. Since the program's mandate is to manage risks through preventive measures, individuals who are denied boarding are not arrested simply for being on the specified persons list. However, when a denial of boarding occurs, program officials always notify the RCMP for public safety reasons.
The anti-terrorism act, 2015, would provide new authorities to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Transport and would define, in legislation, the recourse measures available to individuals affected by the program. Specifically, the legislation would authorize the government to create, maintain and share, where appropriate, a list of individuals who would pose either a threat to transportation security or a risk of travelling by air to engage in terrorism offences abroad. It would enable the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to direct an air carrier to send a listed individual for additional physical screening or refuse boarding outright, if necessary, and it would establish in law a process for affected individuals to appeal their inclusion on the list.
In essence, the provisions would allow us to make needed enhancements to improve the security of air travel and, indeed, the security of Canada, all the while respecting privacy laws and providing a fair process to those who might be affected. Effectively, we are delivering a proportional response to different types of threats.
That is why the proposed legislation defines two distinct decision-making authorities, one to place individuals on or remove them from the list and the other to issue operational response directions. This model would allow the government to confirm an individual's identity documents and travel information at check-in before making a decision that would affect that person's ability to travel. At the same time, it would enable the government to tailor the response to specific circumstances.
Would these new measures place an undue burden upon our security partners? No. Given that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority already conducts additional physical screening on randomly selected individuals, these new measure would not impose a significant burden upon their workload. At the same time, the enhanced ability to identify and mitigate threats would add an important layer of protection for Canadians and Canadian interests abroad, as well as our foreign partners.
As I have spoken about how the program would work and its minimal impact upon the operations of security partners, let me now say just a few words about safeguards to protect the rights of individual travellers, which take two main forms in the secure travel act.
First, there are the safeguards related to the sharing of the list with foreign governments. Let me be clear. International co-operation on security helps the government to better protect Canada and Canadians. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness would carefully assess the impact of any arrangement to share the list and that sharing would happen only in strict accordance with Canadian laws. Furthermore, even with an arrangement in place, our government would continue to assess the risk of disclosure. In some cases, for example, it could decide to share only part of the list with a foreign partner.
The second safeguard with respect to rights revolves around the appeal process for those listed.
Here, again, the secure air travel act would put effective measures in place. Any individual denied boarding could apply to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to be removed from the list. The minister would provide the applicant with a reasonable opportunity to provide new information to the minister to challenge the listing decision. After reviewing the case in its entirety and taking into account any information provided by the applicant, the minister would, within 90 days, decide whether the applicant should remain on the list or be removed.
If the applicant disagreed with the minister's decision, the secure air travel act would set out procedures for appeal to the federal court. The presiding judge would review all relevant evidence, while still protecting sensitive information that could endanger national security or the safety of any person, if disclosed. Applicants would receive a summary of the sensitive information and could, again, submit new evidence to respond to the government's case.
The secure air travel act, as contained in the anti-terrorism act 2015, would then enable the government to identify and mitigate threats to transportation security and to prevent travel by air for terrorism purposes, while providing listed persons with an administrative and judicial recourse, all of this without burdening our security partners.
It is for those reasons that I therefore urge all members to join us in supporting this vital bill.