The US – The New No-Fly Zone for Canadian Criminal Record Holders

On March 23, 2011, “Bill C-42: An Act to Amend the Aeronautics Act” received Royal assent and became law in Canada. Prior to passage of the amendment, the Aeronautics Act already permitted airline operators to share passenger data with foreign agencies that govern an international flight’s destination. This new amendment extends this information sharing by allowing the airlines to share passenger data with US transportation authorities for any flight that enters US airspace, even if that flight never touches down on US soil.

So what does this mean for the traveling public in Canada? Practically speaking, it means carriers must comply with the US Secure Flight Program by providing Passenger Name Records (PNRs) to US authorities for passengers ticketed on flights originating in Canada that either enters US airspace or that have an emergency alternate landing site in the US. The PNRs are provided to US authorities 72 hours in advance of departure for the purpose of screening against the Terrorism Screening Center’s No Fly List prior to boarding. If US authorities deem that a passenger represents a security risk, that passenger will be subject to additional screening and may be denied boarding.

There have already been documented instances of travelers being denied boarding in Canada as a result of this new legislation. Unfortunately there is little that the traveling public can do in advance of departure to ensure they do not run afoul of the new policies. If a passenger has an existing redress number issued by the Department of Homeland Security then providing that information at the time of booking should prevent problems on the day of departure, but for travelers who have never had problems before (and who would therefore not have a redress number), there now exists this additional source of concern that their ability to travel domestically or internationally is ultimately at the discretion of the US Government.

Canadians with a criminal record trying to cross on a land border already face great difficulty. It is illegal to go to the U.S. as a Canadian with a criminal record. The result is at least a refusal of entry and a lifetime of U.S. Entry Waivers, which are not cheap or expeditious.

This is another hurdle for Canadians with a criminal record. Usually, a Canadian could apply and receive a pardon and then enter the U.S. hassle-free. Unfortunately, as soon as you get stopped the pardon will do you no good in the future and yo will need the waiver. Turbulence ahead for those 13% of Canadians with a criminal record.