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Canada to use full-body scanners for U.S. flights

By Guardian Nigeria
07 January 2010   |   10:00 pm
CANADA has planed to introduce full-body scanners at all its major international airports to tighten security after the failed attack last month on a U.S.-bound plane. The scanners, which see through clothing, will go into nine airports, including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, starting this month and will be used for now only on U.S.-bound flights, officials said.

Passengers will be given a choice between going through the scanners or being subjected to a full-body physical search, Transport Minister John Baird told a news conference in Ottawa.

“I think for many Canadians, the idea of going through an electronic machine is far more comfortable and less invasive,” Baird told reporters.

The United States requested deployment of the new scanning equipment, but Canada was still talking with Washington to clarify what, if any, additional security measures might be required.

Canada has not decided if it will follow the U.S. lead and require all air travellers from 14 countries to undergo additional screening, a Transport Canada spokesman said.

Baird said that the government was also studying using security personnel trained to detect behavioural characteristics that would indicate a passenger is a potential security risk.

Baird said that Ottawa was aware the tighter security could cause problems for the airline industry, so it was talking to industry officials about the financial impact of the measures.

Canada will purchase 44 of the scanning units. It tested the technology in a 2008 trial at a small airport in Kelowna, British Columbia.

A survey found that 95 per cent of the passengers who underwent the scan preferred it to a physical search, said Rob Merrifield, Canada’s minister of state for transport.

Britain, the Netherlands and Nigeria are among other countries introducing scanners. Canada has a particularly large number of flights to the United States, and passengers even clear U.S. customs at the larger Canadian airports.

Civil liberties groups have raised privacy concerns about the scanners, which effectively allow security personnel to look at an image of a nude body.

The images would not be stored or transmitted and personnel viewing them would be in a separate room with no contact with the person being scanned, to satisfy privacy concerns, Baird and Merrifield said.

The new equipment and scanning requirements will be deployed as Vancouver Airport is set to handle a crush of additional travellers coming to the Winter Olympics in February.