Backgrounder - Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA)

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) was created by the Budget Implementation Act, 2001 (known as the CATSA Act), as part of the Government of Canada's response to the events of September 11, 2001. The CATSA Act received Royal Assent on March 27, 2002, and came into force on April 1, 2002. CATSA is responsible for taking actions, either directly or through a screening contractor, for the effective and efficient screening of persons who access aircraft or restricted areas through screening points, the property in their possession or control, and the belongings or baggage that they give to an air carrier for transport. CATSA is also responsible for ensuring consistency in the delivery of screening across Canada and for any other air transport security function provided for in the CATSA Act, as well as air transport security functions that the Minister of Transport may assign to it, subject to any terms and conditions that the Minister may establish. CATSA must carry out its responsibilities under the CATSA Act in the public interest, having due regard to the interests of the travelling public.
A Board of Directors governs CATSA and brings valuable business and industry experience, and perspective to the organization. The President and Chief Executive Officer and senior management team manage day-to-day operations, including the CATSA workforce and the provision of contracted security screening services at Canadian airports.

CATSA shares responsibility for civil aviation security with several federal government departments and agencies, air carriers and airport operators. Transport Canada is Canada's designated national civil aviation security regulator, and regulates pursuant to standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The four responsibilities currently assigned to CATSA in accordance with the CATSA Act are as follows:

  • Pre-Board Screening (PBS) of passengers and their belongings;
  • acquisition, deployment, operation, and maintenance of explosives detection systems (EDS) for hold baggage screening (HBS);
  • implementing a non-passenger screening (NPS) program for persons accessing restricted areas of airports;
  • implementation of a Restricted Area Identity Card (RAIC).

Pre-board Screening (PBS )
The most public and visible of CATSA's security programs is PBS, where some 6,000 Screening officers carry out the security screening of over 48 million passengers and their belongings each year. The screening of passengers takes place prior to their entry into the secure zone of an airport terminal. Screening Officers examine passengers and their belongings to ensure that items that are on Transport Canada's prohibited items list, such as knives, firearms, incendiary devices and explosives, are not brought onboard an aircraft, thereby eliminating the potential for hostile use onboard.

Hold Baggage Screening (HBS)
In addition to screening passengers and their carry-on baggage, Screening Officers use specialized explosives detection equipment to screen over 62 million pieces of passengers' checked baggage each year. This is another vital layer of security to protect the travelling public. CATSA purchases and integrates the equipment into the airport's baggage handling system, and oversees equipment operation and maintenance.

Non-passenger Screening (NPS)
In November 2002, NPS was added to CATSA's responsibilities. Each year, CATSA conducts, on a random basis, 600,000 security screenings of non-passengers accessing restricted areas at Canada's 28 major airports, in order to provide an additional, effective layer of security. Non-passengers include flight and cabin crews, airline customer service personnel, caterers, maintenance personnel, baggage handlers, vendors and concession and other airport service staff.

Restricted Area Identity Card (RAIC)
In November 2002, the RAIC program was also added to CATSA's responsibilities. Fully operational since January 31, 2007, the RAIC is the world's first dual biometric (iris and fingerprint) airport identification program for non-passengers accessing restricted areas of air terminal buildings in Canada's 28 major airports. The RAIC has a built-in computer chip with a microprocessor and memory to store biometric data of fingerprint and iris templates. The RAIC program includes the card, fingerprint and iris readers installed in airport terminals, and a network infrastructure linking the 28 airports to a secure central database.

CATSA is funded through federal parliamentary appropriations and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As part of the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to the safety and security of Canadians, the Government recently announced new dedicated funds that will help to strengthen Canada's air transportation system against terrorist attacks, enhance the protection of air travellers and better align the aviation system with international security. As a result, the Government will provide an additional $1.5 billion over five years to the CATSA to enhance aviation security through Canada's Air Travellers Security Charge (ATSC).

CATSA Review