Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 31

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker


X-ray Body Scanners at Airports

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On Monday, November 14, the European Union prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners at European airports. This was in response to the results of recent studies that revealed that body scanners used in airports, including those used in Canada, use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that is shown to cause cancer. Radiation experts have made it clear that airport X-ray body scanners violate a long-standing principle in radiation safety, that humans should not be X-rayed unless there is a medical benefit.

The European Union has taken steps to protect its citizens from the potential harm caused by being exposed to the radiation transmitted by the X-ray body scanners. When will the Canadian government take steps to protect the health and safety of our citizens?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the safety of the travelling public is, of course, the government’s top priority. We invested $1.5 billion over five years to enhance Canadian aviation security. CATSA has committed to making the best possible use of all resources that have been allocated to its operations. Security will not and must not be compromised.

With regard to the health effects of the scanners, I read a report that the security scanners do not pose a health risk. Senator Jaffer seems to be citing authorities that make the opposite claim. I will be happy to seek further information as to whether scanners pose any health hazard.

Senator Jaffer: I appreciate that the leader will look into this matter to see if the X-ray body scanners hurt the health of Canadians. If her research shows that they do hurt the health of Canadians, will she undertake to impress upon our government the removal of these body scanners from airports?

Senator LeBreton: I cannot answer that question specifically, honourable senators. As I mentioned, I believe that the scanners, which are necessary for our airline security and safety, are not a health hazard. I will not take the leap into what-ifs. Let us get the facts, and then we will deal with it from there.