100,000 Affected Canadians

During our SECU committee testimony, we estimated that potentially 100,000 Canadians are affected by false positive screenings under Canada’s Passenger Protect Program2.

The methodology of that estimate is as follows:

  1. We took a random sampling 50 names of individuals that are known false positives
  2. These names were searched on Canada411.ca (an online phone book), and the number of exact matches (same first and last name) were noted.
  3. For the 50 individuals, it was found that the average person shared their name with more than 51 other individuals.
  4. In 2007, Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon stated there were as many as 2000 names on Canada’s No-Fly List1.
  5. Extrapolating, we have 2000 names x 51 false positives per name = 102,000.

This is a conservative estimate, because:

  • The No-fly List likely has more than 2000 names on it now, over a decade later.
  • Fewer and fewer Canadians are listed in the phone book, due to the increased prevalence of mobile phones.
  • The online phone book only contains the name of the member of a household in whose name the phone number is registered (i.e. Canada411.ca does not include the names of children residing in that same household).
  • We only counted exact matches, whereas the name matching algorithm is suspected to allow for differences in spelling.

When this estimate was made public, the Public Safety Minister expressed skepticism about its validity, calling it “highly speculative”3.

Evidence From U.S. Supports 100k Estimate

However the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – in our view an independent and reliable source – provides information that this false positive rate is based in reality. Any person that applies to the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) receives a letter. In these letters, such as those received by No Fly List Kids families, DHS states “We have found that about 2% of the DHS TRIP complaints actually have some connection to the Terrorist Watchlist. Complaints most often arise either because the traveler’s name and personal information is similar to the name and personal information of another person…5. In other words, DHS has found that 2% of inquiries could be considered true positives, while the other 98% are false positives. In the U.S., for every true positive, there are (98% ÷ 2%) = 49 false positives, which is remarkably close to our estimate of 51. Based on 49 false positives, a list of 2000 names would affect 98,000 innocent Canadians.

With the government providing no statistics to the contrary (and in fact refusing to do so6), all evidence points to this issue affecting a massive number of innocent Canadians.