The Anti-Terrorism Act and Security Measures in Canada: Public Views, Impacts and Travel Experiences

6. Discussion and Conclusion

This study examined the knowledge, attitudes and experiences of 1,703 Canadians concerning anti-terrorism legislation, security measures and other related issues. In addition, this study is unique in that it examined differences between visible minority and non-minority respondents.

For the most part, the results indicate that Canadians' level of awareness regarding government actions to combat terrorism except in relation to travel-based (non-legislated) initiatives is quite low. This may be due to the complex nature of some of the areas related to anti-terrorism. While the Department of Justice has made an effort to inform Canadians by creating a website, the existence of this method of information sharing, while preferred by the participants, is not widely known.

Generally, there was support for the governments' actions to combat terrorism - that the ATA was necessary to combat terrorism and that Canada is safer from terrorist activity because of the legislation. Despite the enactment of the ATA to combat terrorism, Canadians have primarily noticed the changes to airport security in response to the events of 9/11. Given the media coverage over the role airport security played in the 9/11 attacks, and the subsequent coverage concerning the changes to airport security, it is not surprising that the participants identified this as one of the main actions taken by the government.

Most of the individuals in the survey indicated that they were familiar with the concept of racial profiling. It was generally felt that while Canada does not have an official policy to profile individuals based on race, it occurs unofficially at least sometimes. Most respondents felt that it is inappropriate to screen someone based solely on race or ethnicity and that doing so would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, it was felt that if an individual was targeted because of these factors, the individual would receive a fair trial in Canada.

As stated above, the most commonly cited impact of the post-9/11 security measures has clearly been the increased security at airports and borders. The survey also examined the travel experiences of the participants and found that those who were given additional screening mostly experienced property and personal searches. It appears that most of the respondents felt that the added security measures were sufficiently justified at airports in order to protect the public; however, this support decreased when applied to border crossings. It could be argued that the visual impact of the 9/11 events have enhanced the fear of a terrorist attack during air travel and therefore this type of screening is viewed more as a comfort than an infringement.

There were some statistically significant differences between minority and non-minority respondents. While a larger proportion of visible minority respondents reported being personally affected by the post-9/11 security measures, there were no significant differences on their experiences at both border crossings and airports.

Generally, visible minority participants were more concerned about the use of the ATA, especially with respect to safeguards and the application of the legislation, including concerns surrounding the potential for racial profiling to occur. Possibly as a result of these concerns, fewer minority respondents felt that the ATA was necessary or had made Canada safer from terrorist activity when compared to non-minority respondents.

Overall, while there were few differences between visible minority and non-minority respondents surrounding awareness and concern over terrorism, there does appear to be significant differences between the two groups with regards to a general trust in the government and its institutions to ensure fair treatment. Lastly, while racial profiling is a major concern, there were no statistically significant differences between visible minorities and non-minorities regarding additional security screening at airport security and border crossings.

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