B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada's secret no-fly list

OTTAWA — Canada's no-fly list faces constitutional challenges from two B.C. men who argue in a pair of court cases that the secret roster violates their Charter of Rights guarantee of fundamental justice.

The 12-year-old no-fly regime allows the federal government to bar someone from boarding an airplane because there are grounds to believe he or she would threaten the flight or travel to commit a terrorist act.

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Under the system, air carriers must inform Transport Canada when a would-be passenger's name matches that of a listed person. If the match is confirmed, the public-safety minister can direct the airline to do additional screening or prevent the person from flying.

The names of listed people generally do not become public unless they take their cases to the courts. The government has repeatedly refused even to confirm the number of people on the list.

In a submission to the Federal Court of Canada, Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a "denial of boarding" notification under the no-fly program last May 17 at the Vancouver International Airport.

He took steps to appeal the decision the next month and in August federal officials gave him an unclassified summary of information related to the case. Dulai was told the public-safety minister's office would consider additional, classified information in the appeal.

Dulai received a letter in late January saying his name would remain on the no-fly list, prompting his application to the Federal Court.

He is asking the court for an order striking him from the roster or, at the very least, further examination of his case.

Dulai also seeks a declaration that the no-fly provisions violate his constitutional guarantee of freedom to enter, leave and travel within Canada, as well as his charter right "to know the case against him and the right to answer that case."

Federal lawyers have not yet filed a response, and a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale declined to comment while the matter is before the court.

Rights advocates have long found the no-fly program problematic, denouncing the listing process as opaque and the redress process as inadequate.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has criticized the system for allowing use of hearsay and secret evidence without access to a special advocate who can test that information or represent the interests of the listed person.

The court challenges from Dulai and another B.C. man, Bhagat Singh Brar, were first reported this week by the National Post newspaper.

In his court filing, Brar says he was barred from getting on a plane at the Vancouver airport last April 24. He also went through the appeal process and a decision to keep his name on the list came in December.

Like Dulai, Brar argues the no-fly regime violates his mobility rights and fundamental justice guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

No dates have been set to hear the substance of either case.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

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