Incorrect story by CBC on passengers denied boarding

On October 5-6, 2015, CBC published a story entitled «Hungarian Roma regularly prevented from boarding Canada-bound flights». Below is (1) a Request for immediate correction regarding the said story, sent to CBC early on October 6; and (2) the information provided by writing to the reporter in advance of said story. CBC did make a small editing adjustment addressing point 1 of our REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE CORRECTION, without publicly acknowledging the change. Our other points were ignored and our request for correcting the story was denied. Later in the day on October 6, a distinct, follow-up story did mention that a visa is required when the purpose of the trip is not tourism, establishing that the original story was indeed incomplete. CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices say: “We do not hesitate to correct a significant error when we have been able to establish that one has occurred.”

Re. Raffy Boudjikanian’s «Hungarian Roma regularly prevented from boarding Canada-bound flights» (5-6 October, 2015)

We request that the article mentioned above be immediately and visibly corrected.

  1. The subtitle says: “Air Transat, CBSA wouldn’t comment but advocate suspects Canada wants to curb refugee claims.” This is plain false, as we commented at length. It appears CBSA also commented, since they are quoted in the piece.
  2. The statement “Men and women who refuse to give their names or job titles have been picking passengers out of check-in lines… then denying them permission to board their flights” should have been attributed to passengers or witnesses, and is thus misleading. This cannot be asserted as fact as the reporter was not present and had no way to verify this.
  3. The assertion that Air Transat failed to answer CBC’s questions is false. We are on the record answering all CBC questions by writing, except for providing nominative information, which is out of the question for obvious reasons.
  4. We are on the record explaining who the people doing the screening are. Consequently, the assertion that we failed to answer questions concerning “the identity of the two people in the image” is baseless. In fact, the reporter chose to not share with the public relevant information provided to him.
  5. The article grossly mischaracterizes the situation and misleads the public by omitting a significant part of the story. By stating (without proof) that people denied boarding were travelling with valid travel documents, and by leading the public to understand that said people were arbitrarily taken out of the waiting line based solely on ethnic grounds, the reporter omits a very material portion of the story, which is that if and when travellers fail to demonstrate that they are travelling for leisure purposes, they need a visa. In other words, the heart of the story is that people were found by officials not to be travelling for tourism purposes and consequently were found not to have valid travel documents. Suppressing such information makes the whole story incomplete, inaccurate, slanted and misleading.

We request a visible correction be appended to the article immediately.

Below is the information provided to reporter several days before publication, in response to a list of questions.

  1. All airlines flying to Canada have a statutory obligation under Canadian immigration law to ensure that passengers are in possession of the travel documents prescribed for entry by Canadian immigration and border control authorities, as required by their specific circumstances including purpose of trip.
  2. In addition, and in light of the above, Government of Canada makes pre-boarding travel document screening mandatory.
  3. There is such a professional screening process in place in all European gateways, generally performed by specialized agencies. This, of course, is not specific to Air Transat or Budapest.
  4. Screening is performed by duly authorized and well-trained document screening officers, with the support of Government of Canada expert liaison officers, who verify (through questioning) that persons seeking to travel to Canada are in possession of the required travel documentation per Canadian immigration laws and regulations, and subsequently make recommendations to carriers to board or not to board the individual(s) in question. Citizens of visitor visa-exempt countries only require a valid passport for genuine visiting and/or tourism purposes. A valid visa is mandatory in all other cases. Specifically, in Hungary, a valid visa is mandatory if the purpose of the trip is declared or deemed to be something else than visiting or tourism.
  5. In some recent cases, Government of Canada officials present at the point of departure for the purpose of screening passengers regarding the purpose of their trip to Canada determined that certain travelers were apparently lacking appropriate documentation, including immigrant or work permit visas, where applicable, and consequently recommended that Air Transat refuse said travelers, or risk incurring liability for improperly documented arriving passengers, including the assessment of administrative penalties and assumption of the costs regarding subsequent removals/deportations. Given the circumstances, Air Transat duly followed the said recommendations.
  6. Having the appropriate travel documentation is unambiguously the responsibility of passengers and tickets are non-refundable, as clearly outlined in the terms and conditions of carriage and our tickets.
  7. We will not discuss the specifics of individual, nominative cases.
  8. Government of Canada officials identify themselves.
  9. Documentation is confidential.
  10. We reject allegations of profiling as groundless.