You are now being "Spotted" at Canadian Airports

New Canadian Airport Security Measures

As our ongoing effort to inform the pubic about Airport Security, we have learned that along with the introduction of controversial full-body scanners and other new security regulations, Canadian airports will now include specially trained officers who “spot “suspicious individuals based on their behaviour and how they look or dress.

The new behavioural security program is called SPOT, which stands for Screening Passengers by Observation Technique. SPOT has already been introduced in airports in the United States and other countries around the world are currently considering using it.


The implementation of SPOT was announced last week by Transport Minister John Baird, and some of the behaviours that would raise alarm are sweating, facial micro-expressions, obvious nervousness or wearing heavy or baggy clothing on warmer days. Baird also admitted that these security procedures would cause even more delays.

While passengers have the choice between going through the body scanners or getting a manual pat-down, people exhibiting the suspicious behaviours will be forced to undergo the scanning.

The organization that represents thousands of Canadian pilots, Air Line Pilots Association International, had requested that SPOT be implemented in 2008 according to an article the Calgary Herald published. The article also described a scene that detailed some of the queues the program looks at, for example: a bad dye job can also be interpreted as a consequence of exposure to dangerous chemicals, as can burns on the hands, and the men exhibiting these qualities were being watched by a security agent – in plainclothes – and were flagged for questioning.

Along with targeting certain landed immigrants to Canada and Canadian Citizens from a list of certain countries, airport security will now be further screening you by what you wear or how you act. This can lead to delays, missed flights, or intense and stressful questioning because you’re told you look a little bit sweaty after spending hours in a packed airport terminal.

Obviously there are  human rights issues associated with the SPOT approach. Arbitrary and subjective denials of entry to the US and other countries would likely increase.  We will have to see how this all plays out. Air travel is becoming increasingly challenging for visitors and for people applying for Visas to Work or Study with these new Canadian airport security measures.

Any information provided here does not constitute legal advice and is intended for general information only. Should you require legal advise, you are encouraged to contact a lawyer directly. All blog postings are public and are not subject to solicitor/client confidentially. Case results depend on a variety of factors unique to each case, and case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any further case undertaken by the lawyer.

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About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the American Bar Association. He is frequently called upon to appear in the media to discuss Canadian and US immigration issues effecting North Americans. He has been interviewed by Canada AM, CTV, Canada News Net, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and has given lectures on immigration topics overseas.

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