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5. Law Enforcement

i. Enforcement Difficulties

The Working Group recognized that laws dealing with unruly passengers and interference with crew members - current and future - are only as effective as their enforcement. Several members expressed frustration because police services having jurisdiction at airports and Transport Canada had, it was claimed, on some occasions not provided adequate or appropriate enforcement support. As a result, a perception had developed of law enforcement indifference toward unruly passengers. Accordingly, in accordance with its Terms of Reference, the Working Group considered the need to develop clear enforcement procedures.

On the basis of presentations by representatives of several police services having jurisdiction at airports and Transport Canada Civil Aviation enforcement specialists, the Working Group came to appreciate that police and Transport Canada have well-established enforcement procedures. In the case of Transport Canada, these procedures have been standardized and are documented so as to ensure national consistency.

Rather than enforcement procedures being inadequate, the Working Group came to appreciate that the special enforcement challenges associated with incidents on board aircraft were the enforcement issue. For example, passengers or crew members with information that would assist a criminal investigation and support the institution of proceedings against an accused may have personal demands or other reasons that preclude their involvement. Police may then have insufficient evidence to support any further action. The Working Group concluded that enhanced understanding and cooperation between crew members and law enforcement would be most beneficial.

To address this information gap, the Peel Regional Police Airport Division and the Ottawa-Carleton Airport Police Airport Policing Section produced Unruly Airline Passengers: The Police Response, an information guide for airline staff in Canada. The Guide provides practical information applicable anywhere in Canada on dealing with an incident, personal safety, police action, the law, evidence and court, and prevention. The Guide has been provided to Working Group members and is available for national distribution.

An exception to the Working Group’s general satisfaction with enforcement procedures was the application of the Criminal Code of Canada to certain passengers who are alleged to have committed offences on board aircraft. Subsection 7(7) prevents proceedings from being instituted if the accused is not a Canadian citizen without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada. The Working Group understands that there is no consistent national process for obtaining such consent. As a result, police and prosecutors may be frustrated in their attempt to institute proceedings. The Working Group is aware of no practical reasons why this restriction is in effect. A more favorable approach would be to eliminate the requirement altogether. If this is not possible, an alternative would be to harmonize with provisions already in the Criminal Code of Canada, subsection 477.2(1), which enable proceedings to be instituted in the case of an offence committed on board a vessel if the Attorney General of Canada’s consent is obtained within eight days.

ii. Recommendations

10. The Criminal Code of Canada should be amended to enable the institution of proceedings against persons who are not Canadian citizens and are accused of an offence on board aircraft without obtaining the consent of the Attorney General of Canada. If this is not possible, the Criminal Code of Canada should provide that proceedings shall not be continued unless the consent of the Attorney General of Canada is obtained not later than eight days after proceedings are commenced.

11. Transport Canada should assist further distribution of Unruly Airline Passengers: The Police Response, an information guide for airline staff in Canada to air operators, crew members and police services having jurisdiction at airports.