Transport minister defends invasive search of senior

Monday, January 11, 2010 , Posted by TJ at 4:17 PM

OTTAWA — Transportation Minister John Baird was unapologetic Sunday about the invasive search of an 85-year-old woman conducted by security personnel at the Ottawa Airport.

Baird was asked by media Sunday about the treatment of the four-foot-10, 90-pound woman who was travelling from Ottawa to Toronto on Dec. 28. The woman was asked to remove her boots and then unzip her pants. A female inspection officer then poked at her abdomen.

The woman’s niece, Cynthia Sutcliffe, said that the former federal public servant is now “terrified” of airport security and that the search was “extreme.”

But Baird argued that even people who seem non-threatening cannot be disregarded by security.

“The reality is, as we’ve seen in Iraq, the al-Qaida network has put explosive devices on developmentally disabled adults and then sent them into marketplaces where their bombs were detonated,” Baird said on the Sunday TV show Question Period. “Obviously we have to deal with every concern. I think we should use common sense.”

But Sutcliffe said her aunt’s search doesn’t pass that “common sense” test.

“I still stand by my disappointment in how they treated my aunt, but I understand Baird’s position at the same time,” said Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe’s aunt was taken from an Air Canada security line during a random search.

“She has osteoporosis and her stomach protrudes a little bit,” Sutcliffe said. “But that is no reason for this kind of search.”

Sutcliffe said her aunt is frightened she will be searched again.

Next time her aunt flies, Sutcliffe said she will get a pass that will allow her to take her aunt to the boarding area, an option she was previously unaware of.

As part of new airport security measures, Baird explained that 44 full-body scanners, at a cost of $11 million, will soon be arriving in major airports across Canada. Twelve scanners are arriving this week while the rest will come in five to 10 weeks.

At Canadian airports, adults will have the option of either going through a full-body scanner or being subject to a pat-down. Youth under 18 will not have to go through a scanner and will be patted down instead, said Baird.

Sutcliffe is skeptical of full-body scans because some elderly people who go through the scanners will be wearing incontinence briefs.

“I want them to catch the bad guys, don’t kid yourself. But if it’s your grandmother or grandfather who is going to be wearing those undergarments for personal incontinence and things, and then they start saying, ‘Well the guy that blew up the plane had the stuff in his underwear,’ where do we stop?”

Full story HERE

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