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Same name: How airports mix up kids with people on 'no fly' lists

Fariaa Siddiqui knows she has a long wait at the airport every time she tries to travel with her two-year-old son
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Faaria Siddiqui knows she has a long wait at the airport every time she tries to travel with her two-year-old son.

Since his first flight, when he was just three months old, she's had the same issue.

"It started at home. I couldn't check in online the night before, and it just kept telling me to see an attendant when I got to the airport," Siddiqui says.

When they got to the airport, Siddiqui and her son were met with questions, but eventually got on their flight from Toronto to Vancouver.

She says she brushed it off, assuming it was routine. But on the return flight, the same issues arose.

"This time when I got to the airport, the attendant told me, 'Your son is on a list, and we have to verify his identity for you to continue the flight,'" she recalls in an interview with NEWS 95.7's Todd Veinotte.

It turned out that Siddiqui's sons name was an exact match to someone on a 'no fly list,' created jointly by the Transport Canada, CSIS, and the RCMP. 

Soon after this incident, Siddiqui found the group #NoFlyListKids, and since then she's been advocating for her son and others on the list to travel without being questioned.

"My child is a Canadian, he was born in Canada, he's never been outside of Canada," Siddiqui says. "As parents, we're all very scared as to what the future holds for the children."

She adds that it's not just people with Muslim names who are added to the list, but anyone whose name sets off the alarm bells. She says people with last names like Matthews, Evans, and even Senator Yonah Martin's family members have been affected.

"It's just a trigger of the combination of the name, it's not anything to do with religion or anything like that," Siddiqui says.

The #NoFlyListKids has heard stories from over 200 families at this point, but according to Siddiqui, up to 100, 000 Canadians are affected by the list.

"It's not just children, there's veterans, there's seniors, there's a lot of people that are showing up on this list that shouldn't be showing up," she says.

Although her son is too young to understand, Siddiqui says other parents have had to explain to their children why they are being singled out.

"A lot of the older children know what's going on at this point, and a lot of them are very active," she says, noting that children have helped by speaking to the media and helping to lobby the government in Ottawa.

The proposed Bill C-59 deals with amendments to the Secure Air Travel Act, which could allow for names of children to be removed from the list.

"It provides a redress system for people who may be affected, who have matching names with people on the list," Siddiqui says. "A way to prevent you from being stopped at the first block, the online check-in."

Bill C-59 passed through the House of Commons in June 2018, and in December was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defense.

Siddiqui says the government has been very communicative about with the group of concerned parents, but there is no official timeline yet for when Bill C-59 could come into affect.

Despite her frustrations, Siddiqui says she isn't angry, but just wants the issue resolved as soon as possible.

"The list exists for a reason," she says, "But our children haven't done anything wrong. They didn't get to choose the name they were given."




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Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

After graduating from journalism at King's, Victoria Walton now works in the film industry and as HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor.
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