The Trudeau government has announced it worked with airlines to consider requiring “digital identity documents” and biometric data like facial recognition for pre-aircraft boarding requirements. 

A May 14 statement published in the Canada Gazette on Regulations Amending the Secure Air Travel Regulations and the Designated Provisions Regulations details how the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness discussed the proposed requirements during an air travel stakeholder exercise.

“In accordance with (Public Safety’s) Forward Regulatory Plan 2021–2023, the need to update the (Secure Air Travel Regulations) to offer more options to travellers and the industry to meet pre-aircraft boarding identity verification requirements through innovation was also considered during the stakeholder consultation exercises,” said the statement. 

“This includes digitized identification documents, digital identity documents and biometric travel documents.”

“Biometric travel documents” were defined by Public Safety as “electronic identification documents that use biometric identifiers (such as facial recognition)” among other things. 

The government also noted that four unidentified air carriers were planning to implement the “innovative identity management solutions” soon. 

“While four air carriers confirmed their intent to implement innovative identity management solutions in the short to medium term, no specific immediate change has been identified for the (Secure Air Travel Regulations),” the statement claimed. 

Testing to introduce facial recognition screening into Canada’s airports has been ongoing since as early as 2016. 

Last year it was revealed that the Liberal government secretly scanned the faces of millions of unsuspecting travellers at Toronto Pearson International Airport in 2016. According to the Globe and Mail, 31 cameras were used to spy on travellers. 

The photos were then matched with a 5,000-person data set of prior deportees to find out if anyone was travelling using fake documentation. Up to 20,000 travellers a day had their faces scanned during the exercise. 

Concerns have also been raised about the federal government implementing a digital identity program. The Canadian government, Air Canada and two Canadian airlines have signed onto the World Economic Forum’s “Known Traveller Digital Identity” program. 

Conservative MP and leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis has recently blasted the program, calling it “incredibly concerning.” 

As exclusively reported by True North, in February a federal panel event featuring Senior Assistant Deputy Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Francis Bilodeau discussed using digital identities to track Canadians for future vaccinations and to find people who have yet to receive their booster shot.