Entries Tagged "Canada"

Page 2 of 3

Random Killing on a Canadian Greyhound Bus

After a random and horrific knife decapitation on a Greyhound bus last week, does this surprise anyone:

A grisly slaying on a Greyhound bus has prompted calls for tighter security on Canadian bus lines, despite the company and Canada’s transport agency calling the stabbing death a tragic but isolated incident.

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said bus travel is the safest mode of transportation, even though bus stations do not have metal detectors and other security measures used at airports.

Despite editorials telling people not to overreact, it’s easy to:

“Hearing about this incident really worries me,” said Donna Ryder, 56, who was waiting Thursday at the bus depot in Toronto.

“I’m in a wheelchair and what would I be able to do to defend myself? Probably nothing. So that’s really scary.”

Ryder, who was heading to Kitchener, Ont., said buses are essentially the only way she can get around the province, as her wheelchair won’t fit on Via Rail trains. As it is her main option for travel, a lack of security is troubling, she said.

“I guess we’re going to have to go the airline way, maybe have a search and baggage check, X-ray maybe,” she said.

“Really, I don’t know what you can do about security anymore.”

Of course, airplane security won’t work on buses.

But — more to the point — this essay I wrote on overreacting to rare risks applies here:

People tend to base risk analysis more on personal story than on data, despite the old joke that “the plural of anecdote is not data.” If a friend gets mugged in a foreign country, that story is more likely to affect how safe you feel traveling to that country than abstract crime statistics.

We give storytellers we have a relationship with more credibility than strangers, and stories that are close to us more weight than stories from foreign lands. In other words, proximity of relationship affects our risk assessment. And who is everyone’s major storyteller these days? Television.

Which is why Canadians are talking about increasing security on long-haul busses, and not Americans.

EDITED TO ADD (8/4): Look at this headline: “Man beheads girlfriend on Santorini island.” Do we need airport-style security measures for Greek islands, too?

EDITED TO ADD (8/5): A surprisingly refreshing editorial:

Here is our suggestion for what ought to be done to upgrade the security of bus transportation after the knife killing of Tim McLean by a fellow Greyhound bus passenger: nothing. Leave the system alone. Mr. McLean could have been murdered equally easily by a random psychopath in a movie theatre or a classroom or a wine bar or a shopping mall — or on his front lawn, for that matter. Unless all of those venues, too, are to be included in the new post-Portage la Prairie security crackdown, singling out buses makes no sense.

Posted on August 4, 2008 at 6:19 AMView Comments

Privacy International's 2007 Report

The 2007 International Privacy Ranking.

Canada comes in first.

Individual privacy is best protected in Canada but under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released Saturday.

Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of “endemic surveillance societies.”

EDITED TO ADD (1/10): Actually, Canada comes in second.

Posted on January 10, 2008 at 6:01 AMView Comments

More "War on the Unexpected"

The “War on the Unexpected” is being fought everywhere.

In Australia:

Bouncers kicked a Melbourne man out of a Cairns pub after paranoid patrons complained that he was reading a book called The Unknown Terrorist.

At the U.S. border with Canada:

A Canadian firetruck responding with lights and sirens to a weekend fire in Rouses Point, New York, was stopped at the U.S. border for about eight minutes, U.S. border officials said Tuesday.

[…]

The Canadian firefighters “were asked for IDs,” Trombley said. “I believe they even ran the license plate on the truck to make sure it was legal.”

In the UK:

A man who had gone into a diabetic coma on a bus in Leeds was shot twice with a Taser gun by police who feared he may have been a security threat.

In Maine:

A powdered substance that led to a baggage claim being shut down for nearly six hours at the Portland International Jetport was a mixture of flour and sugar, airport officials said Thursday.

Fear is winning. Refuse to be terrorized, people.

Posted on November 21, 2007 at 6:39 AMView Comments

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Comments on the No-Fly List

Refreshingly sensible:

Stoddart told inquiry Commissioner John Major she is concerned that people could be placed on the list in error and face dire consequences if their identities are then disclosed to the RCMP or passed on to police agencies in other countries.

And she questioned why, if people are so dangerous that they can’t get on a plane, they are deemed safe to travel by other means in Canada.

[…]

Between June 28, when the program came into effect, and the end of September, no passengers were turned away because of the list, the inquiry heard. Stoddart said that information only increases her suspicion about the value of the program.

“I think it only deepens the mystery of the rationale, the usefulness of this,” Stoddart said. “The program is totally opaque.”

Major suggested that perhaps less extreme measures could be taken. For example, individuals on the list might be able to undergo extra screening so they could be allowed to travel.

[…]

“We are looking to avoid what happened in 9/11. Presumably it’s to keep dangerous people capable of blowing planes up — or capturing them — off the plane. It seems difficult that you can do that by a name (on a list) alone.”

Other members of Stoddart’s staff added there are concerns someone could be stranded in Canada after arriving without incident, only to be prevented from boarding their return flight.

Posted on November 13, 2007 at 12:25 PMView Comments

Mysterious Refrigerators in Toronto

Imagine if this happened in Boston?

Empty fridges suddenly popped up in the financial district, causing puzzled looks from passersby.

[…]

Security personnel weren’t impressed.

When security got wind of the stunt, they arranged to have the fridges scooped up.

By 3 p.m., they were all gone.

No word on who the “security personnel” were. Police? Building guards? Canadian secret agents?

If this were Boston, there would have been a media frenzy, ridiculous statements by public officials, and prosecutions of those responsible.

EDITED TO ADD (10/11): Press release.

Posted on September 21, 2007 at 12:34 PMView Comments

Poppy Coins Are not Radio Transmitters

Remember the weird story about radio transmitters found in Canadian coins in order to spy on Americans?

Complete nonsense:

The worried contractors described the coins as “anomalous” and “filled with something man-made that looked like nanotechnology,” according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.

The silver-colored 25-cent piece features the red image of a poppy — Canada’s flower of remembrance — inlaid over a maple leaf. The unorthodox quarter is identical to the coins pictured and described as suspicious in the contractors’ accounts.

The supposed nanotechnology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy’s red color from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada’s 117,000 war dead.

“It did not appear to be electronic [analog] in nature or have a power source,” wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. “Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire-like mesh suspended on top.”

The confidential accounts led to a sensational warning from the Defense Security Service, an agency of the Defense Department, that mysterious coins with radio frequency transmitters were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.

One contractor believed someone had placed two of the quarters in an outer coat pocket after the contractor had emptied the pocket hours earlier. “Coat pockets were empty that morning and I was keeping all of my coins in a plastic bag in my inner coat pocket,” the contractor wrote.

Posted on May 9, 2007 at 11:28 AMView Comments

U.S./Canadian Dispute over Border Crossing Procedures

Interesting:

The main sticking point was Homeland’s unwillingness to accept Canada’s legal problem with having U.S. authorities take fingerprints of people who approach the border but decide not to cross.

Canadian law doesn’t permit fingerprinting unless someone volunteers or has been charged with a crime.

Canada’s assurances that it would co-operate in investigating any suspicious person who approaches the border weren’t enough, said one Capitol Hill source.

“The Attorney General’s office really just wants to grab as much biometric information as it can,” said the source.

Posted on May 6, 2007 at 12:35 PMView Comments

Canadian Anti-Terrorism Law News

Big news:

The court said the men, who are accused of having ties to al-Qaeda, have the right to see and respond to evidence against them. It pointed to a law in Britain that allows special advocates or lawyers to see sensitive intelligence material, but not share details with their clients.

In its ruling, the court said while it’s important to protect Canada’s national security, the government can do more to protect individual rights.

But the court suspended the judgment from taking legal effect for a year, giving Parliament time to write a new law complying with constitutional principles.

Critics have long denounced the certificates, which can lead to deportation of non-citizens on the basis of secret intelligence presented to a Federal Court judge at closed-door hearings.

Those who fight the allegations can spend years in jail while the case works its way through the legal system. In the end, they can sometimes face removal to countries with a track record of torture, say critics.

And that’s not the only piece of good news from Canada. Two provisions from an anti-terrorism law passed at the end of 2001 were due to expire at the end of February. The House of Commons has voted against extending them:

One of the anti-terrorism measures allows police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges, provided police believe a terrorist act may be committed. The other measure allows judges to compel witnesses to testify in secret about past associations or pending acts. The witnesses could go to jail if they don’t comply.

The two measures, introduced by a previous Liberal government in 2001, have never been used.

“These two provisions especially have done nothing to fight against terrorism,” Dion said Tuesday. “[They] have not been helpful and have continued to create some risk for civil liberties.”

Another article here.

Posted on March 2, 2007 at 6:54 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.