An interesting story broke last week:
A Quebec human rights tribunal has ordered Bombardier to pay more than $300,000 for refusing to train a Canadian pilot whom U.S. transport safety officials had labelled a threat to aviation and national security.
The fine includes $50,000 in punitive damages — the most ever awarded by the tribunal, which also ordered Bombardier to ignore U.S. “standards and decisions” when determining whether a pilot can train in Canada.
The ruling concerns Javed Latif, a Canadian of Pakistani origin. When he sought training on the Challenger 604 jet in 2004, Bombardier turned him away, saying U.S. officials had already denied him similar instruction on national security grounds.
Bombardier argued its hands were tied because it had to comply with U.S. laws but the tribunal rejected the company’s argument and found that Mr. Latif was “a victim of discrimination based on his ethnic and national origin and that his right to the safeguard of his dignity was compromised.” (Source)
This is certainly an eye-opener for me. I have mixed feelings about it.
On the one hand, I think Bombardier did the right thing for worrying about the safefty of air travellers even at the risk of being sued. I mean, if a suspected terrorist can’t be denied the right to fly a plane, then our society is officially insane.
On the other hand, you have to question the validity of the U.S. watch lists. Exactly what criteria are they using? It’s important to point out that the individual in question, Javed Latif, was eventually removed from this list in 2008, four years after the incident with Bombardier. So why exactly was he on the list in the first place? Just because he’s from Pakistan? That’s not nearly enough to make somebody into a terrorist. The Americans have to refine their methods. I can understand that they want to be cautious and not let their guard down, but they can’t over-do it either, or they’ll fall into paranoia and outright denial of basic human rights.
I don’t like how the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal handled this. Not at all. They fail to grasp the complexity of the situation. They don’t even want the opinion of American inteligence agencies to be taken into account. That’s disturbing. For the tribunal, the issue is not that the Americans changed their mind and took the man off the list. No, they’ve actually ordered Bombardier to ignore the opinion of the Americans altogether, even if they happen to be right. I guess even Bin Laden himself would be allowed to fly a plane in Quebec these days.
For decades (way before 9/11) law enforcement agencies have shared information and intelligence on a variety of issues because they recognize that none of them can know all the facts by themselves and that there is much to be gained by sharing inforaition. That’s why INTERPOL was created way back in 1923, almost 90 years ago. Back in 1923, they didn’t have plane hijackings. Heck, they probably didn’t even have automobile hijackings. At best, they had horse-jackings and train heists. Now that we live in a world that is orders of magnitude more complex, this tribunal wants us to ignore intelligence from other countries? Are you kidding me?
Following the tribunal’s logic, if we could go back in time to September 11, 2001, and stop those terrorists from boarding those planes that were slammed into the World Trade Centre, we could certainly save thousands of lives, but the tribunal would subsequently fine you for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Notice how the tribunal somehow determined that the U.S. assessment of Mr. Latif was based on discrimination: he was“a victim of discrimination based on his ethnic and national origin and that his right to the safeguard of his dignity was compromised.” Now how does a human rights czar claim to know the criteria by which the U.S. government places people on the terror-watch list? Do you think the tribunal served subpoenas to U.S. intelligence officers to hear their views? Of course not. The tribunal’s statement is a gratuitous affirmation. As usual, lefties hate Americans. This is classic lefty nonesense.
Here’s another troubling quote from the tribunal ruling:
“It was not (Bombardier)’s responsibility to assume, proprio motu, the responsibility of national security.”
Really? So do we just delegate everything to the State and pray that they don’t miss anything? If I witness an old lady being mugged, am I supposed to just stand aside, dial 9-1-1, and wait until the cops arrive while the crooks beat the crap out of her? Have I no duty to help her? This logic makes no sense. Another lefty classic.
I understand this is a delicate situation. It sounds wrong to arrest someone or to treat them differently before they have committed any crime (think back to the movie Minority Report). But how else are we to prevent terrorism? By the way, such pre-emptive moves are nothing new. In Common Law, there is a long tradition of considerations such as probable cause and reasonable suspicion that allow police to take certain measures if they suspect that you’ve committed a crime or are going to commit one. We just haven’t figured out exactly how to apply this to terrorism.
I feel sorry for Mr. Latif because he was wrongly identified as a terrorist threat. That’s a horrible stigma to put on somebody. I blame the law-enforcement authorities for that, not Bombardier.
The situation is complicated and required a more balanced approach than was delivered by the tribunal. I hope Bombardier appeals the ruling and wins. The blame in this matter should fall on the U.S. and their faulty watch list, not on a private corporation that trusted the intelligence of law-enforcement agencies.