"The power of Shahid’s cartoons are acute. Take a close look if you dare. Instead of euphemisms, find direct statements; instead of evasion, find candor. The skill of illustration is matched by the acuity of vision..."
Norman SolomonREAD MORE
Nov 29, 06:00 PM
'No-fly' case ramped up
'No-fly' case ramped up
3 years after being denied Air Canada seat and getting no answers, he heads to Rights Commission
Toronto Star Nov 27, 2007
Shahid Mahmood wasn't arrested, sent to Syria, tortured or even questioned by authorities, but he was once stopped from boarding a Canadian fight and after more than three years no one will tell him why.
His frustrating journey will lead him today to the Canadian Human Rights Commission where he will file a complaint against Air Canada for racial profiling.
His experience doesn't compare to other high profile Canadian cases such as that of Maher Arar, who was deported and held for a year in Syria because he was erroneously included on a no-fly list. But Mahmood's case highlights the fear that many Arab and South Asian Canadians now hold and exemplifies the lack of recourse concerning international no-fly lists.
"It comes down to just wanting to know why," Mahmood, 36, said. "If you get a parking ticket you can go to the court and say, `Here's my story,' and fight it. I should be able to do the same thing."
Mahmood was travelling with his wife from Vancouver to Victoria in May 2004, when his name was flagged and a ticket agent wouldn't clear him for travel. He said he was told his wife was free to purchase a ticket, but he was not. The Toronto-born editorial cartoonist grew up in Pakistan before returning to Canada as a teenager. His Chilean-born wife, Erika Barrientos, is also a Canadian citizen.
In a June 2004 letter, Air Canada informed Mahmood that he had been denied a ticket because he did not have a second piece of identification. But Mahmood was travelling with his driver's licence, the requirement for domestic flights.
In May, Air Canada wrote MP Peggy Nash, who has been advocating on Mahmood's behalf, saying that he was denied a ticket because his name was similar to someone on a security list. "Air Canada does not, and did not, practise racial profiling as alleged by Mr. Mahmood. Passenger bookings are automatically flagged if the name of the passenger is a close match to a name appearing on a security list," wrote Air Canada privacy officer Gale Paul. But in previous correspondence Mahmood had been told that Air Canada did not have a "no-fly list."
"Which begs the question," says Mahmood. "Where did they get their information from?"
Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said yesterday that he could not talk about Mahmood's case but that the airline "has a lot of ways of screening for people, for a variety of reasons."
"I can't really provide a lot of detail," Fitzpatrick said. "I always sort of liken it to, you couldn't call a bank up and expect them to tell you how they protect all their money because a security system works partly because people don't know how it works."
Although Mahmood has flown since 2004, he is scared to travel to the U.S. He worries his name is included on the U.S. no-fly list, which reportedly contains 80,000 names. He could be confused with someone else, or, Mahmood suggests, deliberately listed due to his editorial cartoons that are critical of the U.S. administration. Air Canada is obligated to use the list for U.S. travel, but Fitzpatrick said it is not used within Canada.
Mahmood's lawyer Nicole Chrolavicius said they've been "searching in the dark about what happened" and have not received any information from the federal departments potentially involved, including Transport Canada, the RCMP, CSIS, Canada Border Services Agency and Public Safety. "This case certainly raises the spectre of racial profiling. There is fear the Muslim community is being targeted by these kind of national security measures in an unfair way," Chrolavicius said.
Mahmood's trouble pre-dates Canada's no-fly list, known as "Passenger Protect," which was introduced earlier this year. The Canadian program does allow for a review at "Office of Reconsideration." But the Canadian Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about the board's independence since it is part of Transport Canada, which is responsible for compiling the list in the first place.
"The real harm by this program can be caused when people are wrongly included on this list and have a hard time getting off," said Canadian Civil Liberties Union Graeme Norton. "We've suggested there needs to be an independent, external adjudication of the listing decision."
Mahmood hopes the latest stage in his fight will lead to some answers. "Sometimes I think what's the big deal, it just fades into the background and becomes part of your life. So I can't fly to the U.S.," said Mahmood. "But this raises issues of basic civil liberties and racial profiling. Unless somebody actually tells us what's happening we can only speculate."
Toronto man files human rights complaint against Air Canada
CBC News November 27, 2007
A Toronto man has filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Air Canada, claiming the airline "flagged" him for security reasons and prevented him from taking a domestic flight three years ago.
Shahid Mahmood, a Canadian citizen and a Muslim, was attempting to take the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria for a friend's wedding in 2004. He bought an Air Canada ticket.
"The person behind the counter told me specifically that I would not be allowed to board. My Chilean-born wife was told she could actually purchase a ticket and go on," he told CBC News.
Since then, Mahmood has been trying to find out why his name was on a security list. He says he was "a little bit shocked and stunned … [I] don't expect this to happen to a citizen of the country."
Mahmood says the RCMP, Transport Canada and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service all say they had no involvement.
Nicole Chrolavicius, Mahmood's lawyer, says the case raises serious issues that she wants the Canadian Human Rights Commission to examine.
"We have a Muslim man denied entry onto a domestic Air Canada flight — a Canadian citizen born in Canada," said Chrolavicius.
The lawyer adds that the treatment of Muslim-Canadians in the face of national security concerns should be of interest to all Canadians. "We want to know why Mr. Mahmood was flagged for security reason. We'd like the ability to correct any misinformation that Air Canada has."
A spokesman for Air Canada said the airline can't comment on specifics.
At the time Mahmood attempted to get on the flight, Canada did not have a "no fly list."
One was officially introduced more than a year later.
Muslim artist files complaint against airline
Washington Times November 29, 2007
A Muslim political cartoonist has filed a complaint against Air Canada, claiming he was barred from a flight because of his race, his religion and his criticism of the Bush administration. Shahid Mahmood, a Toronto resident who grew up in Pakistan, said he was flagged for security reasons in May 2004. He filed a complaint this week with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
"We made an attempt to resolve matters non-adversarially before being forced to pursue legal options," said his attorney, Nicole Chrolavicius. Air Canada refused to sell Mr. Mahmood a ticket to Vancouver but sold a ticket to his Chilean-born wife. "They denied having a no-fly list and indicated that Shahid was barred entry because he did not have proper identification," Miss Chrolavicius said. "Not so; he had a valid Canadian driver's license with photo ID."
The airline then said Mr. Mahmood arrived past the boarding time, although it allowed his wife to board, the attorney said.
"We are worried that Shahid is on the U.S. no-fly list, perhaps due to his political cartooning. He has been critical of the Bush administration in the past," Miss Chrolavicius said. Editorial cartoons drawn by Mr. Mahmood, which are syndicated by the New York Times Press Syndicate, are also critical of the war in Iraq. The cartoons can be viewed at www.drawnconclusions.com.
Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, declined to comment.
"This issue is now before the Canadian Human Rights Commission and, as this is a quasi-judicial process, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time," Mr. Fitzpatrick said. "We will present our position directly to the CHRC."
Miss Chrolavicius said this case is the first of its kind in Canada but similar cases are moving through the U.S. court system. A group of imams in Arizona and California filed suit against US Airways in March for being booted from a flight after passengers and the flight crew reported suspicious activity. A federal judge ruled last week that the case can move forward. The imams' lawsuit originally sued "John
Doe" passengers who reported the suspicious behavior as well as the flight crew and airport employees. However, the "John Does" were dropped from the lawsuit after Congress enacted a law giving immunity from litigation to passengers who report suspicious behavior that may presage a terrorist attack.
Earlier this month, a group of Iraqi Pentagon contractors filed suit against American Airlines, claiming they were falsely identified as "posing a risk to security by reliance on racial profiling and through discrimination based on race and national origin." A police report shows that some of the men might have been intoxicated, behaved in a frightening and belligerent manner and scared one family off the plane. In August, an Iraqi immigrant and peace activist filed suit against JetBlue Airlines for refusing to allow him on a flight wearing a T-shirt that read in English and Arabic, "We Will Not Be Silent."
Jeffrey F. Addicott, professor of law and director of the Center for Terrorism Law, said these lawsuits are "an indication of how far and wide this could spread."
"This case from Canada certainly illustrates the importance of litigating the US 'flying imams' complaint and not settling the case in the name of expediency," Mr. Addicott said.
Canadian Muslim barred from Air Canada flight files human rights complaint
THE CANADIAN PRESS November 27, 2007
TORONTO - A Canadian Muslim who says racial profiling was behind Air Canada's decision to deny him a ticket to board a flight three years ago filed a formal complaint Tuesday with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
While attempting to purchase a ticket in Vancouver to fly to Victoria in May 2004, Shahid Mahmood said he was flagged as a security threat, despite his valid government ID - and the fact Air Canada did not yet have a Canadian "no-fly" list.
"I was stunned at their refusal to allow me to board this flight," Mahmood told a news conference in Toronto.
The sales agent at the time said his name was "flagged" by the system and that he also wouldn't be able to fly the next day. He was also warned that future flights aboard Air Canada would require him to show his passport, he said.
Mahmood's Chilean-born wife, however, was allowed to purchase a seat without incident.
Despite repeated attempts to find out why he was flagged, the Toronto-born editorial cartoonist said the airline has never given him a proper explanation.
"I am just as in the dark, with no tangible answers from Air Canada, now as I was three years ago," he said.
Mahmood, who grew up in Pakistan, believes he was blocked because of his race and faith.
Nicole Chrolavicius, Mahmood's lawyer, billed the case as the first of its kind in Canada, and said it reflects the plight of other Muslim Canadians who have been unjustly prevented from travelling by air.
Since Canada's no-fly program, known as Passenger Protect, didn't exist when the incident occurred, it's likely Air Canada was unofficially using U.S. data on potential security threats, Chrolavicius suggested.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick declined to comment on the case because it is now being reviewed by the commission.
However, in a letter dated May 17, 2007, and addressed to New Democrat MP Peggy Nash, who has been advocating Mahmood's case, the airline said it does not practice racial profiling.
Instead, the letter states that Mahmood's file was flagged "because, at that time, his name was a close match to a name on a security list."
The letter goes on to explain that if Mahmood had arrived earlier for the flight, he might have had time to complete the screening process.
According to the letter, Mahmood tried to buy a ticket 41 minutes before the flight's scheduled departure time.
Since the incident, Mahmood has flown on Air Canada without incident and has travelled on non-American carriers to Europe, the Middle East and South America.
However, he is afraid to enter the U.S. because he fears he is on a no-fly list there.
Sameer Zuberi, communications co-ordinator with the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his organization has fielded about 12 complaints from Canadians barred from flying, but most of those involved U.S.-bound flights.
Cases of mistaken identity are likely to increase as officials in different countries continue to swap no-fly information, Zuberi added.
Tom Godfrey, SUN MEDIA
As hundreds of Toronto Muslims get ready to leave next week for their pilgrimage to Mecca to mark Hajj, a local man has filed a human rights complaint against Air Canada alleging he was a victim of racial profiling that led to him being banned from a flight.
Shahid Mahmood, 36, who was born in Canada, said he was not allowed on a Vancouver-to-Victoria Air Canada flight in May 2004 because his name matched that on a watchlist. He's been fighting the airline since to obtain information on his case.
"I was stunned at their refusal to allow me to board this flight," Mahmood said at his lawyer's office yesterday. "I was left wondering why I would be refused entry on a domestic flight in my own country."
Mahmood, a syndicated political cartoonist, wants a public apology from the airline, which has since allowed him back as a passenger.
"The idea that my name was somehow flagged in the security system is unnerving," he said.
"Who decides whose name appears on security lists and what does a person do if their name appears on one?"
Jan 1, 02:31 PM
- 'No-fly' case ramped up
- Canada's no-fly list runs into rights storm
- Air Canada Response
- CSIS Response
- Jean Lapierre's Reponse
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