John Major's Air India inquiry report's key findings on aviation security and terrorism finances

Retired Supreme Court of Canada justice John Major headed the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182.

The commission released the following key findings about aviation security and terrorist financing:


Ӣ Many of the same deficiencies in aviation security that were identified in 1985 continue to be raised as urgent concerns today.

Ӣ Aviation security is a core governmental function related to national security.

”¢ In aviation security, there is a tendency to focus on “fighting the last war” instead of taking necessary, proactive measures.

Ӣ A holistic approach to aviation security is required because terrorists continuously probe aviation security regimes, looking for weaknesses. This approach involves multiple, mutually reinforcing layers of security measures.

Ӣ A culture of security awareness accepted by all stakeholders is essential to guard against complacency.

Ӣ Air terminals can themselves be target-rich environments for terrorists.

Ӣ While fortress-like security is applied to the more publicly visible side of civil aviation, the side that is more hidden from public scrutiny remains exposed.

”¢ Air cargo is neither routinely searched prior to loading, nor subjected to adequate screening measures. Its vulnerability, which has been understood by the Government for decades, makes it a serious potential target for sabotage. Canada does not meet its international treaty obligation to prevent unauthorized explosives and other dangerous devices or substances from being placed on board civil aviation aircraft “by any means whatsoever”. The Government’s failure to take swift action to close this gap is inexcusable.

Ӣ Access to airside and restricted areas of airports is poorly controlled and the system for screening non-passengers who access restricted areas of airports can be easily circumvented. Lax perimeter security also allows vehicles and their occupants to enter airside portions of the airport with minimal, if any, screening. As a result, aircraft and passengers are vulnerable to attack.

Ӣ CATSA has encountered significant difficulties in recruiting and retaining screening personnel.

”¢ Behavioural analysis (direct observation of passengers prior to boarding aircraft) is already being conducted in airports and on some flights by Aircraft Protection Officers (RCMP officers assigned to Canada’s air marshall program). However, there was a broad consensus among witnesses that if consideration is given to expanding its use, behavioural analysis should be thoroughly reviewed in order to determine whether its benefits outweigh the risks it poses to individual rights.

”¢ The value of Canada’s air marshall program is impossible to quantify, but it may provide another layer of protection, particularly in relation to high-risk flights.

”¢ The “no-fly list” program has not proven to be effective.

Ӣ There is no coordinated, system-wide risk management strategy among stakeholders in Canadian aviation security, which may allow significant risks in civil aviation to go unnoticed.


”¢ Canada’s current antiterrorist financing model, which was created on the basis of its existing anti-money laundering model, is not well-suited to capture terrorist financing transactions.

Ӣ Canada must comply with a series of international obligations and requirements in terms of its antiterrorist financing programs and activities. For the most part, Canada is in compliance with those requirements but as is often the case in such matters, this is a continuing effort and there is still room for improvement.

Ӣ Up until at least very recently, the level of resources dedicated to antiterrorist financing measures was inadequate. Resource levels in all concerned agencies or departments should be monitored and modified as needed on a regular basis.

Ӣ The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) are not adequately integrated into the intelligence cycle to effectively detect terrorist financing or to provide the best financial intelligence to CSIS and the RCMP.

Ӣ As of the Commission hearings, the CRA had not revoked or deregistered any charitable registrations on grounds of terrorism financing.

Ӣ It is not clear that all relevant federal, provincial and municipal authorities have the same appreciation of the risks posed by terrorism financing. There is definite room for improvement in terms of intergovernmental cooperation and efforts to combat that phenomenon.