Airport Security Complaints: Officers Disrespect, Lie To Passengers At Canadian Airports, Complaints Allege www.privateofficer.com
Toronto Canada May 12 2012 Canada’s airport security officers breached their own rules by placing children into “naked” scanners without the consent of their parents and often lied to travellers about the need to undergo a full body scan.
Complaint forms sent to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) and obtained by The Huffington Post Canada suggest some agents who screen carry-on bags and passengers are rude, aggressive and misinform people about their right to choose a full pat down instead of the virtual strip-search machine.
“When I asked for a pat down from a female agent, the male security agent refused and said ‘everyone’ did the body scan. He also told me that it was not a body scan but a radio-frequency scan and no image of my body would be made,” said a passenger travelling to the U.S. from Montreal. “The full-body scan should never be lied about or forced on passengers.”
“I was never given a choice,” wrote another traveller, an American on a business trip who felt he had been racially profiled.
An elderly woman from Victoria, B.C., wrote to complain that she felt a CATSA officer had threatened her with what she understood to be a naked full-cavity body search if she didn’t go through the scanner.
“A male security agent said to me, in a manner that sounded like he was joking, ‘Would you like to have a full-body search?’ … if not, then proceed to the body scanner. I was quite taken aback, but proceeded,” she wrote. “After retrieving my belongings, I walked away trembling, found a chair and sat down and cried … I felt I was treated without respect and my dignity was violated.”
Several parents said they were shocked when they realized their underage children had been scanned without their consent.
“My daughter is [age blanked out but is under 18] went through the full-body scanner without my consent on April 27, 2010 around 5 PM at YYC [Calgary airport] on our trip to Las Vegas. I talked to the supervisor who said it was a miscommunication, they though that she was older. It is not acceptable to assume the age of a passenger,” she wrote.
At the Greater Moncton International Airport, another mother complained that her daughter had opted for a pat down but that the screening officer had forced her to take the full-body scan.
“I do not think it should be an option to view children naked and ask that you do not use it on anyone under 18,” wrote another passenger in Halifax.
Although former transport minister John Baird assured Canadians when the machines were purchased in 2010 that no one under 18 would have to go through the scanners, CATSA now screens children between 12 and 17 who provide their own “informed consent,” while parents or tutors must provide consent for kids under 11.
Transport Minister Steven Fletcher’s spokesman Brayden Akers insisted there has been “no change” in policy relating to secondary screening.
In the documents, obtained by HuffPost under the Access to Information Act, many pregnant women expressed concerns they were not informed there might be a potential risk to their unborn child.
A woman travelling from Toronto to Timmins, Ont., said she asked if the full-body scan was safe and was told “yes, no problem.” But as soon as she was screened, another security officer told her next time she should not opt for millimetre-wave body scans and instead ask to be given a pat down.
“I started to panic,” the pregnant woman wrote. “Why am I getting two different responses? Should the staff be trained for all that beforehand? They should know whether or not it is safe?”
Citing Health Canada approval, CATSA insists the 56 L3 ProVision machines the Conservative government purchased pose no risk to passengers.
“Full-body scanners do not pose a risk to human health and safety in single or repeated exposures,” CATSA says on its website.
But HuffPost has learned the federal government never tested the machines or gathered independent information from a third party source upon which to base its decision.
Gary Holub, a spokesman for Health Canada, said: “We don’t test machines.”
When asked Health Canada was asked how they could know the device poses no threat to human health if no independent testing was done, the department pointed the finger at Industry Canada, which refused to say whether or not it had tested the machines.