(Ottawa) International Development Secretary Harjit Sajjan earlier this year called for a treatment reserved for a handful of Canadians, including the prime minister: the right not to be subjected to various pre-flight security screening measures at Canadian airports.
Posted at 5:00 am
After an unusual move of senior State Department officials to the Department of Transportation, he was eventually granted a partial exemption, it turns out. The press from a reliable source.
Since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals came to power, at least one other minister, former Treasury Secretary Bill Morneau, has attempted to secure such an exemption because he was carrying Cabinet confidences when he flew to Toronto. But he was denied that privilege. To our information, no other cabinet minister has received or sought such differential treatment at Canadian airports.
In Minister Sajjan’s case, acting Assistant Deputy Secretary at Global Affairs Canada, Julie Sunday, submitted a motion on his behalf in late January when MPs were due to travel to Ottawa to resume hearings of the House of Commons.
Since entering federal politics, Mr Sajjan, who is of Sikh faith, has complained to some of his cabinet colleagues that his turban is sometimes searched for the alarm when he passes through passenger checkpoints before they enter security at the airport.
Under current regulations, a limited number of Canadians are exempt from preflight screening: the Prime Minister and his immediate family, the Governor General and Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Mr. Sajjan has represented the riding of Vancouver South, British Columbia in the House of Commons since 2015. He is therefore often asked to fly to Ottawa during parliamentary negotiations.
After six years at the helm of the Defense Ministry, Harjit Sajjan was transferred to the International Development Ministry following the recent general election. As Defense Minister, Mr Sajjan had much more confidential documents than he has had since taking office, where he also reports to Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.
“According to our conversation, a letter signed by Julie Sunday, Head of Security for Global Affairs, is attached authorizing Mr Sajjan to bypass security checks at Canadian airports on Canadian commercial flights if he is in possession of classified documents. I am confident that this meets the required requirements and would appreciate if you would inform the Canadian Aviation Safety Administration,” wrote Bruce Murdock, director of corporate security at Global Affairs Canada, in an email to Pierre Mondor, responsible for compliance and inspection program at the Department of Transportation.
This email was sent on January 26, five days before Parliament resumed. A minister is almost always in possession of classified documents when traveling between Ottawa and his residence.
“Hello Bruce. I acknowledge receipt of the letter. It is sent to CATSA [l’Administration canadienne de la sûreté du transport aérien] for distribution. If the Minister encounters any difficulties, do not hesitate to let us know,” Mr Mondor replied on 27 January.
First a rejection
“It is evident that the minister was trying to obtain preferential treatment with this request,” said a government source, who asked not to be identified because she feared reprisals.
The Department of Transportation sent this request to CATSA. The Crown Corporation dismissed the claim on the grounds that the minister was ineligible for such treatment.
After this first refusal, the State Department returned to the charge, specifying that Minister Sajjan must obtain this waiver if he is traveling with cabinet confidentials or a phone used in his functions. A letter confirming this status would be handed to him every time he flew.
The request was the subject of an email exchange between the Department of Transportation, the Department of State and CATSA. Finally, in February, Minister Sajjan was granted partial leave of absence. In an email to The press, Minister Sajjan’s office confirmed that he had received such an exemption. “The minister often has to travel between Ottawa and his home in British Columbia with classified material and equipment. To ensure that classified material or equipment cannot be viewed by anyone without the appropriate security clearance, the authorities have granted this exemption from searching security-sensitive material, and only for that material,” Minister Sajjan’s press secretary Haley Hodgson said in a email to The press.
She clarified that the minister does not use this exemption for any other purpose.
Like every Canadian, the Minister and his belongings are always subjected to a security check on all domestic flights, often including a second check.
Haley Hodgson, Press Secretary for Minister Harjit Sajjan
The State Department declined to answer questions The press to explain the process carried out on behalf of Minister Sajjan.
“Global Affairs Canada does not comment on security-related matters,” Jason Kung, the department’s spokesman, said in an email.