'No Fly List Kids': Advocacy group fights for kids mistaken for terrorists
Published Saturday, September 1, 2018 10:00PM EDT
Sulemaan Ahmed’s son Adam is nine years old, loves hockey and is constantly mistaken for a potential terrorist when he travels.
That’s because his name is the same as a man on Canada’s “no-fly list” of terror suspects.
“Traveling with kids is always fun to begin with,” said Ahmed in an interview with CTV National News.
Even though Adam is just a child, when travelling, his family still needs to arrive extra early to the airport to provide buffer room for inevitable difficulties. Since they can’t check in for flights online, the family is often separated on flights.
“The next thing you know your son is sitting five rows ahead with other strangers,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed started a group called “No Fly List Kids” after his son was flagged while travelling to the U.S. to see an NHL Winter Classic hockey game. He tweeted a screenshot of an airport agent’s computer and the family received an outpouring of support from other families of kids who face the same difficulties travelling.
The group has grown into an advocacy organization that represents hundreds of families. They recently met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the no-fly list complications.
“It was a very informal conversation,” Ahmed said about the meeting. “The Prime Minister was very engaging and listened and asked a lot of questions to understand the situation. I think that was very well received by all the families.”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told CTV National News that the conversation was positive, but no permanent changes will happen until new national security legislation is passed by the Senate. In the meantime, children and teens will continue to be flagged at airports around the world, something that lawyer Khalid Elgazzar said is particularly difficult for teens who may face greater scrutiny.
“It is quite demeaning to have a child go through this, especially those that are teenagers, having to be set aside in plain view of the public for no reason other than the fact that your name matches the name of someone who might be on a list,” he said.
Ahmed’s son Adam is growing more aware of the difficulties people like him face, but his parents are adamant that the problem will be fixed before he becomes an adult, when appearing on the no-fly list can make travel worse.
“We don’t want him to feel stigmatized or disillusioned,” said Ahmed. “Hopefully this is fixed before he’s 18 and it’s not something he or any other thousands of kids or adults have to deal with.”
We're honoured & grateful that PM @JustinTrudeau met with @NoFlyListKids families today to hear their stories and discuss the way forward. Together we will #fixthis! Oh Canada! pic.twitter.com/Cr150IJlbO— No Fly List Kids (@NoFlyListKids) August 31, 2018
With a report from CTV National News B.C. Bureau Chief Melanie Nagy