On April 12, 2017, opposition MPs grilled Prime Minister Trudeau on aviation security following a report aired on the Quebec French-language station TVA which claimed that four employees at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, one of whom had access to runways and was investigated by police, were stripped of their security clearance due to concerns of radicalization and support for the Islamic State.
According to the report, two employees with security clearance had expressed support for ISIS, one shared graphic ISIS videos on social media and the fourth one suggested that the November, 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead “needed to be replicated”.
The report also claims that some employees have allegedly been accessing online documents on the use of explosives, and two of the individuals still work at the airport, but according to vice-president of airport operations Pierre-Paul Pharand, they had their security clearance revoked as a “precautionary measure”.
Following the explosive report, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced that Canada has imposed new airline security measures on certain Canada-bound flights but, other than saying that the measures would ensure greater security on flights coming to Canada “from certain countries”, he provided no further details, citing a need for secrecy.
During the debate at the House of Commons, Trudeau implied that security and police agencies need parliamentary oversight “to ensure that they are doing everything to keep Canadians safe”.
The following is a transcript of the debate:
Tony Clement, Public Safety Critic for the Official Opposition:
“Mr. Speaker, I hope the Prime Minister can answer this question. Yesterday, his Minister of Transport went out to the public and said that there is a national security threat involving our airlines. The minister will not tell passengers or Canadians what the nature of the threat is. He will not say where it is coming from. He will not say how people can protect themselves against the threat. The Prime Minister and his government are showing the sensitivity of United Airlines. When are they going to come clean and tell passengers how they can protect themselves and what the nature of the threat is?”
Prime Minister Trudeau:
Mr. Speaker, as Canadians know, we take the security of Canadians and of all air travellers extremely seriously. That is why we work with our police and security agencies, with our international partners, and with our airlines to determine how best to keep air travellers safe. I can reassure Canadians that we always do everything necessary to ensure that Canadians are safe, while at the same time protecting their charter rights and freedoms. That is what we will continue to do every step of the way.
Kelly Block, Conservative MP for Carlton Trail–Eagle Creek:
“Mr. Speaker, three more workers continue to work at Trudeau airport, despite having their clearances revoked due to security concerns. To say that Canadians are shocked that these employees were previously cleared to work in secured areas would be an understatement. While the Prime Minister’s response on this issue is tone deaf, all that the transport minister is now offering are vague assurances and a secret plan. How can Canadians trust the Liberals to keep our airports secure?”
Prime Minister Trudeau:
“Mr. Speaker, the safety and security of Canadians and indeed all travellers are extremely important to this government. That is why we work every day to ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep Canadians safe. Our security agencies and police agencies work carefully every day to ensure that people are safe as they travel through our airports and elsewhere. That is why we are also moving forward on a committee of parliamentarians that will have oversight over our national security agencies and police agencies, to ensure that our charter rights are protected and that all our agencies are doing everything they can to keep Canadians safe at all times, which they are.”
Luc Berthold, Conservative MP for Mégantic—L’Érable:
“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s fine words show us that he is not aware of everything. Let us remember the facts. It took an investigation by the public affairs program JE to discover that potentially radicalized employees of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport in Montreal had access to secure areas. Yesterday, the Minister of Transport revealed that three other employees have lost their access cards for those areas. What is unbelievable is that the Prime Minister knows that some of the employees in question are still working at the airport. That is unacceptable. When will the Prime Minister stop taking us for fools, tell us what is really happening, and take real measures to reassure Canadians?”
Prime Minister Trudeau:
“Mr. Speaker, all members of the House want to make sure that Canadians are safe. That is why we are working together every day to ensure that our police and intelligence services are doing everything they need to do to protect Canadians. I am very pleased to know that a committee made up of parliamentarians from all parties will be overseeing the actions of our police and national security agencies to ensure that everyone’s rights and freedoms are respected and, more importantly, that Canadians are always safe in airports and in their communities.”