As is often the case, the Canadian government has seen something the United States and United Kingdom have done and thought, hey, maybe we should follow suit.
Earlier this week, the US enacted a temporary ban on electronic devices for passengers flying from eight Middle Eastern and North African countries – Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
A few hours later the UK imposed an electronics ban for flights originating in Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Jordan.
The regulation requires passengers departing from the countries in question to store laptops and other larger electronics – tablets, cameras, travel printers, and games bigger than a phone – in checked baggage. Cellphones are still be permitted in the cabin.
Ten airlines are directly affected by the US ban (Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways), while 14 carriers are affected by the UK ban (British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air, and Saudia).
Attention all passengers ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/HCNDcjcdi1
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 21, 2017
Canada is taking the initiative seriously and will now evaluate whether a similar measure is necessary.
“We are looking at the information that has been presented to us,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said after the government’s weekly cabinet meeting. “There is not a specific timeline but we are acting expeditiously.”
“Acting expeditiously” would suggest there’s some urgency on the matter, which is spurred by US intelligence reports from two anonymous sources that ISIS is developing bombs hidden in electronic devices. American counterterrorism officials are specifically concerned about the potential for explosives to be hidden in laptop batteries.
Garneau, meanwhile, says his government’s job is to follow up on any intelligence that could affect Canadians.
“It is our duty and our obligations, basically, to look at in detail information that has been provided to us by other intelligence communities,” Garneau said.
Some commenters on reddit, however, point out that the United States’ electronics ban is motivated by commercial interests, and not security. Only flights with foreign carriers will be subject to the US ban, which could force passengers to choose American carriers if they want to travel with laptops and other devices. Those flights are considerably more expensive since Middle Eastern carriers are subsidized by their governments – something American, Delta, and United airlines see as an unfair competitive advantage.
Will Canada will play the national security card to boost domestic airline revenues? Unlikely.
The ban officially comes into effect on March 25, which gives authorities just three days to remedy the widespread confusion about what it all means. Passengers flying to or stopping over in the United States or United Kingdom from one of the affected countries should consult their airlines for up to date info.