In Canada, a Dismal Report on Airport Security

Security at Canadian airports remains dismal more than five years after 9/11 and responsibility for the protection of travellers should be taken away from the Transport Department, a Senate committee is recommending.

A report released by the Senate defence and security committee yesterday says the government should put the Public Safety Department in charge of airport security.

The Transport Department is great at moving people and things around efficiently, it says, but security isn't its job.

"There are still way too many holes in security at Canada's airports for any Canadian's comfort,'' says the 144-page report by the all-party committee.

The senators didn't single out any particular facility, saying they're all in bad shape.

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said airports are much more vigilant these days.

"I'm quite comfortable with what we've done,'' he said.

He plans to examine the Senate recommendations.

The report calls for tighter security, including daily checks of workers.

Senator Colin Kenny, the Liberal chair of the committee, said it makes no sense to search every air passenger while conducting only random searches among the 100,000 people who work at airports, including baggage handlers, maintenance workers, refuellers and plane cleaners.

The senators complained that most of the tough recommendations produced in a 2003 report on airport security were met with "weasel words'' from both Liberal and Tory governments.

The report summarized government reaction: "More talking. More consulting. More thinking. But, if anything, even less urgency about fixing serious problems.''

Even the Conservative government, which talks a tough law-and-order policy, is "for the birds'' when it comes to airport security, Kenny said.

Security concerns have waned as memories of 9/11 fade, he said.

That's a bad attitude, he said, because terrorism remains a threat.

"Just because it hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen.''

The report said the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority should take charge of security operations and the RCMP should handle security strategy.

The senators urged the government to bolster the RCMP by between 600 and 800 full-time equivalents so the national police force can expand its "security, investigative and analytical capabilities at airports.''

The senators said they found little urgency about fixing problems they identified in 2003, including organized crime at airports, inadequate background checks and access control to aircraft and a lack of screening of mail and other cargo aboard passenger planes.