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EXCLUSIVE: Secret documents say Canada’s no-fly list poses ‘national security risk,’ but a fix is still years away – National




Canada’s so-called “no-fly list” presents both “national security and privacy risks,” according to documents created by Public Safety Canada and obtained by Global News through an access to information request.

But despite the seriousness of these risks, Canada is still roughly two years or more away from fixing problems with the current system.

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Other documents — including some marked as “SECRET” — describe possible changes the government plans to make to the existing screening process. It says these changes will reduce the risk of “listed individuals” being allowed to board planes, while also leading to “reduced national security risks related to the list being shared with third parties,” such as foreign and domestic airlines.

“Screening again[st] the [no-fly] list has been delegated to air carriers (domestic and foreign) which presents both national security and privacy risks,” said one document obtained by Global News.

Once implemented, the new system will also lead to “enhanced fairness” for Canadians falsely identified as being on the list — including children — the documents said.

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Under the proposed changes, airlines will provide the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) with passenger information roughly 72-hours before check-in. This includes a passenger’s first and last names, date of birth and gender. Transport Canada analysts will then compare this information against the Secure Air Travel Act (SATA) list to determine who is allowed to board a flight.

According to the documents, this will improve safety and privacy for Canadians by creating a “government-controlled” screening process.

“We want to make sure it’s done, but done right,” said Sulemaan Ahmed, whose nine-year-old son Adam has been mistakenly flagged as being on the list.

WATCH: Fighting to fix the No-Fly list

Ahmed is a spokesperson for the group No Fly List Kids, which represents the families of children whose names are the same or similar to those as people on the list. While he thinks the government is taking the issue of fixing the current system seriously, he says he can’t believe it’s taken so long to find possible solutions to problems the government has known about for years.

“I naively thought we’d get this resolved in six months,” he said.

Ahmed met with government officials in Ottawa two weeks ago. He says he was told a fix to the current system could be in place sometime between mid-2020 and early-2021.

But documents obtained by Global News show the new system may not be up and running until late-2022 or even early-2023 — a full two years longer than what government officials told Ahmed.

“We’re going on good faith based on what the government and Public Safety are telling us,” Ahmed said. “Our expectation is two years [before it is fixed].”

Why the delay?

A major cause for delay in implementing the new system is that the government currently has no authority to make any of its proposed changes until its massive omnibus security bill — Bill C-59 — becomes law.

The government also needs to pass Bill C-21, which gives the CBSA legal authority to create an enhanced Entry/Exit system tracking people who travel to Canada. According to the documents, holdups in implementing this system are at least partially responsible for possible delays in rolling out the new SATA screening process.

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The government also needs to work with airlines — foreign and domestic — to ensure the new rules are implemented correctly. According to the documents, this step alone could take as long as 12 months. There are also questions about whether small and remote airlines will be exempted from the new regulations, the documents said.

And while documents suggest the government was actively pursuing ways to speed up this process, there’s no indication they were successful.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is working “as quickly as possible” to implement the new system. He said it’s clear there are issues with the way it works now — and that’s why the government is moving to fix it — but would not comment on whether the current system is in fact a national security risk as the documents indicate.

“Implementing the enhanced [no-fly list] is a substantial undertaking that will take time. It involves the passage of legislation, new regulations, the development and testing of IT systems, and air carriers adopting the new system,” said government spokesperson Scott Bardsley.

He says the way the system works now “enhances security” by identifying dangerous individuals and insists the government has “robust” measures in place to protect Canadians from possible threats.

How it works now

Under the current system, Canada provides the SATA list to 122 foreign and domestic airlines, states a recent government document provided by Ahmed.

According to another document obtained by Global News, information about the list is sometimes shared in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

Airlines then use the list to screen passengers against information they received at the time a ticket was purchased. Anyone identified as a potential match with the list must be flagged to Transport Canada, which then notifies Public Safety.

ARCHIVE: Parents of kids on no-fly list say, “stop subjecting innocent Canadians to extra security measures’

This entire process is dependent upon airlines following the rules and making sure screening is done properly.

“The fact that these lists exist at all means they were always going to be shared with airlines in countries who might or might not be our allies,” said Brenda McPhail, director of privacy and surveillance at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“[Canadians] whose information is being shared on one of these controversial and consequential lists ought to — at a minimum — know that their government has taken adequate security precautions,” she said.

Ottawa tells families caught up in no-fly list to be patient

While anyone who law enforcement believes may pose a threat to air safety or who might travel abroad to commit terrorist acts can be put on the list, getting off the list when falsely identified is far more difficult, she said.

This, combined with the fact that Public Safety apparently has concerns with the way information is being shared, should be enough for the government to reconsider the list’s continued use, she says.

“If the purpose of this list is to protect our national security and it is failing … then it’s hard to justify the existence of the list,” McPhail said.

New system to prevent ‘false-positives’

One of the biggest problems with the current system is that some people — including children — are falsely identified as being on the SATA list because their name is the same or similar to someone who is actually on the list.

For Ruby Alvi, this means worrying that one of her three sons — aged 20, 19 and 16 — could be detained while travelling abroad or potentially subjected privacy breaches just because their names are the same or similar to those as someone actually on the list.

But unlike other countries, such as the United States, Canada has no official mechanism for ensuring people falsely identified as being on the list to prove they are not a threat.

“Absolutely, it poses a security risk,” Alvi said. “I have three boys on the list. They’re not cute little kids right now that people are just going to say ‘clearly you’re not people on the list.’”

Alvi says she’s “not happy” that possible fixes to these problems could still be years away, but she agrees the government is taking this issue seriously.

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“I’m relieved that they recognize sharing of personal, private information does pose a risk to people who are innocently on those lists,” she said. “Hopefully lessons will be learned from this moving forward.”

In the meantime, the “national security” and “privacy” risks described by the government will persist, while passengers such as Alvi’s sons will continue to deal with an imperfect system Alvi says violates their rights and forces them to be subjected to an unfair process.

“Everybody agrees that it doesn’t make sense for airlines to be custodians of this list,” she said. “If this is a national security issue than you would think that the government would be the people in charge.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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