Canadian airports to get full body scanners
Following the attempted terror incident on a Detroit-bound flight Dec. 25 and after announcements that major U.S. airports are rolling out full body scan technology, Canada’s Transport Minister, John Baird and Rob Merrifield, Minister of State (Transport) today announced that the Government of Canada is investing in full body scanners to enhance security at Canadian airports.
By Jennifer Brown
Starting this month, full body X-ray scanners will be installed at eight major
Canadian airports and eventually in another 36 locations. This technology will give passengers a choice
between a full body scan and a physical search. The full body scanner
will be used to reveal objects, including weapons and explosives that
could be concealed under clothing.
“The safety and security of Canadians is of the utmost importance to
our government,” said Merrifield. This latest passenger screening
technology and passenger behaviour screening will be added layers of
security, which will provide a robust defence to further protect air
“Given the recent terrorist incident on December 25, our
government is accelerating its actions to protect air travellers,” said
Baird. “The new full body scanners are the next generation of
technology and balance safety and security with safeguards to privacy.
They will allow for additional flexibility and enhancement to the
security screening process.”
The full body scan technology generates images of the body to allow the detection
of items being concealed under clothing without contact between the
screening officer and the passenger. This is a voluntary option for
passengers and provides a screening alternative to the physical
search. CATSA says the scanners will not be used with children.
The scanners, which cost about $250,000 each, are used in over a
dozen countries around the world. The full body scanners are deployed
in airports as well as land border crossings, correctional facilities,
courthouses, military checkpoints and commercial applications.
The technology works by projecting
low-level millimeter wave radio frequency (RF) energy over and around
the passenger’s body. The RF wave is reflected back from the body and
from objects concealed on the body, producing a three-dimensional
image. The entire screening process is harmless and takes about one
The technology detects “anomalies”
on a passenger, including metals and non-metals of all types, sizes and
shapes; ceramic type threats such as knives and sharp instruments;
liquids of all types; and explosives of all types.
The full body scanner technology was tested last year at Kelowna
Airport over an eight month period to evaluate security effectiveness,
collect operational performance data in an airport environment and
validate the screening protocol for this type of technology. Health
Canada was consulted on the use of the technology and has indicated
that it complies with Health Canada requirements. In addition, the
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada confirmed that privacy
concerns have been appropriately addressed.
A month ago, the president
and CEO of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), Kevin McGarr, said in an interview with Canadian
Security magazine he was unsure whether full body scanners, or
millimeter wave technology, would be available at Vancouver airport for
the Winter Olypmics in Vancouver. In the interview, McGarr said 90 per
cent of passengers going through Kelowna airport approved of using the
full body scan technology as an alternative to a physical search. At
the Kelowna test pilot, millimeter wave scanners from L-3 were used.
"There was good acceptance by the travelling public," McGarr said Nov.
30. "Based on that acceptance we feel it is important to make that
technology available to the travelling public."
The Ministers also announced that the Government of Canada will soon
issue a request for proposal for passenger behaviour observation for
passenger screening at major Canadian airports.
The request will seek a company to develop a passenger behaviour
observation program and training.
Passenger behaviour observation
screening consists of focusing on the passengers exhibiting suspicious
behaviour, which could be an involuntary response to a fear of being
Full details on the request for proposal will be posted on MERX, the
Government of Canada’s electronic tendering service www.merx.com.