By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Opposition MPs on the Commons public safety committee have voted down a Conservative proposal to look at air traveller screening, dismissing it as cheap political fearmongering.
Opposition members said the transport committee is already looking at aviation security and can take on the screening issue — a move that prompted the Tories to accuse them of ducking an important safety issue.
A recent video posted on YouTube appears to show two women boarding a transatlantic Air Canada flight in Montreal without being asked to lift their veils in order to check faces against passport photos.
The Transport Department says Canadian airlines must have procedures to verify the identity of any person whose face is covered.
The committee convened Tuesday after four Conservative MPs requested a meeting “as soon as possible” to determine whether airlines are properly confirming the identity of passengers.
The Liberals said a study was premature given that former transport minister John Baird ordered an investigation of the matter that’s still ongoing. The Commons transport committee has already held 20 hours of hearings on air security, they added, making it the place to look at identity checks.
The opposition majority on the committee easily shut down the Tory proposal.
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said the Conservatives brought the issue to the wrong committee.
“They’re trying to change the channel,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of political troubles, and they’re trying to raise the spectre of security.”
Conservative MP Shelly Glover, one of the four who asked for the meeting, confronted Holland after the meeting.
“Play the games elsewhere,” she told him. “Canadians care about this.”
Glover said she’s heard from people worried about the prospect of travellers covering their faces to avoid detection, and that Canadians need assurances the skies are safe.
“I want them to know that when they travel, this government cares about how they feel, and that they feel comfortable when travelling,” she said.
“There is a lot of miscommunication out there about what is or isn’t in the regulations. And frankly we need to address that.”
But Holland said it’s the Tories who are playing games. He suggested the committee discuss problems with security at the recent G20 summit in Toronto. Conservative members refused consent.
“When you play games and you try to use the politics of fear to score cheap points instead of actually doing the work of Parliament, I think it’s reprehensible,” Holland said.
The Conservative demand for hearings distorts the true picture, he said.
The Muslim community says they have no problem with somebody showing their face. So this creates a false impression that somehow those in the Muslim community are not being co-operative when in fact it is completely a falsehood.”
Bloc Quebecois MP Michel Guimond said that while the issue of identity screening is important, no constituents had raised the issue of veiled travellers with him.
“Zero… It’s not at the top of their priorities.”