Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) 2020 Annual Public Meeting

Message from Marguerite Nadeau, Chairperson of the Board of Directors

It is an honour to report to you again as Chair of CATSA’s Board of Directors, and to share with you the successes and challenges of the past year. 

CATSA's Board of Directors consists of 11 directors, including myself, appointed by the Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport. Of the current 11 directors, two are nominated by the airline industry and two by the airport industry. The insights of those representing the air transportation industry are highly beneficial to our oversight work. 

This year, we have benefited from the stability of a Board of Directors that is unchanged since last year’s Annual Public Meeting. The rapport and comfort we have developed has been especially beneficial as we, like so many others, have transitioned to collaborating within a virtual environment. I am grateful to my fellow members for their contributions in this most challenging year. 

It is not news to say that the pandemic has disrupted business as usual across the globe, particularly for the aviation industry. The news we are here to report is that CATSA has responded with decisiveness and resolve, continuing to secure critical elements of the air transportation system in difficult circumstances. 

The Board has continued to provide oversight of CATSA’s ongoing work, with quarterly meetings and Committee work being conducted remotely. We have had plenty to do, as CATSA’s business has not stopped throughout this pandemic. Indeed, the scope of the task increased. 

CATSA responded quickly to implement new procedures and processes to protect the safety of travellers, screening officers, CATSA staff and other airport workers. This was necessary to allow us to continue with our work, which is critical to the aviation system in Canada. 

Some of these changes, such as the implementation of temperature screening at our checkpoints, were visible to the travelling public. Some were not. But none was made in a vacuum. CATSA’s response to the pandemic required close consideration and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders. 

Along with these new measures, the Board oversaw a range of major projects in the past year that will position CATSA for future success. 

For example, CATSA completed its hold-baggage screening recapitalization program – this was a major, long-term undertaking that required coordination with airports and other partners across the country. It is a great achievement that all involved should be proud of. 

In February 2019, as part of the federal budget, the Government of Canada announced that CATSA’s assets and liabilities would be sold to a private, not-for-profit entity. The government subsequently passed legislation to make this happen. A significant amount of work had been done toward this transition, but the process has been disrupted by the pandemic. 

The Board stands ready to continue supporting the negotiating parties – the Government of Canada and the interim corporate entity, referred to as the Designated Screening Authority – as and when required. 

In these times of unexpected change, one area of particular focus for the Board was overseeing how the effects of the pandemic were impacting CATSA’s workforce. Through reporting from internal surveys, we were pleased to see that CATSA’s senior management was able to gauge what was working well for employees and quickly address any areas of challenge – from ergonomic assessments to resources for mental health and wellbeing. The most recent survey, conducted this past January, showed that 93 per cent of employees who completed the survey were satisfied with their job at CATSA. That is an exceptionally encouraging number and a sign that CATSA’s workforce has been well supported over the past year.

On behalf of the entire Board, I wish to thank CATSA’s Senior Management Committee and staff, and CATSA’s screening contractors and screening officers, for their great work in a difficult year. Our faith in CATSA’s ability to deliver on its mandate, in even the toughest times, has never wavered. 

We would also like to express appreciation for our partners across the air travel sector. Our objectives and efforts to move people and goods safely through Canadian airports are intertwined. We appreciate their support for the work that we do, and we appreciate the opportunity to support them as well in a difficult time for aviation. 

We will get through these difficulties together. And the Board and I look forward to continuing to guide CATSA through this time, and through any challenges and changes that lie ahead.  

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Message from Michael Saunders, President and CEO

Welcome to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s (CATSA’s) 2020 Annual Public Meeting. The pandemic necessitated a change to how we do our work, but the work has remained. And I am pleased to report on our success in these challenging circumstances. 

The majority of CATSA’s employees have moved to telework. Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) was even heard of, our IT team had already put significant effort into equipping employees for mobile work, and that effort yielded benefits beyond what anyone could have expected. 

It allowed us to have a relatively smooth transition to telework for many CATSA employees. And beyond the excellent work by IT and many others to ensure employees are set up for success, each manager found their own way to ensure their teams feel connected with each other and with CATSA as a whole even while working at a distance. 

Meanwhile, others have continued to report to CATSA worksites to allow our crucial work to continue, including our front-line staff at airports across Canada. This is where CATSA delivers on its mandate and mission, and that has meant that our people have continued to report to these sites every day throughout the pandemic. I am extremely appreciative of their dedication and unwavering support for ensuring the security of everyone working in and travelling through Canada’s airports. 

Those airports are very different environments today and CATSA has worked closely with our aviation partners to implement new measures and processes in response to COVID-19. Chief among those has been the introduction of temperature screening at our passenger and non-passenger screening checkpoints located at the largest airports in Canada. This was a huge undertaking implemented in a short time frame, and we are proud of the achievement – especially given our additional efforts to deploy many new procedures, ensure supplies of  personal protective equipment and adopt more rigorous cleaning processes in order to safeguard our screening officers, our staff and the people we screen.

Our quarterly Passenger Intercept Survey results show that passengers who are still departing from airports in Canada appreciate the work we are doing. Difficult times and unfamiliar processes make good customer service more important than ever, and I am pleased to be able to say that it is being provided.  

Once we adjusted to this new operating environment, work on a range of longstanding projects was able to continue.  

We are developing new training on Indigenous cultural awareness and on screening Indigenous sacred items. This is a project I feel passionate about, as do the many employees who are a part of this important effort. Improving our understanding of the Indigenous experience will improve CATSA’s operations to the benefit of Indigenous peoples, and in turn make us a better organization for all of the people we serve.  

We completed our 10-year hold-baggage screening recapitalization project this year. With this effort, CATSA has upgraded its systems to eliminate the need for duplicate screening and to facilitate travel for passengers departing from Canada and transiting through U.S. airports. It will yield benefits well into CATSA’s future. 

Deployments of our CATSA Plus screening lines have also continued. Ottawa International has now joined the list of airports with these high-performance screening lines installed. Other deployments were completed this year at Toronto-Pearson and Vancouver International, and more are planned in the coming year at Montreal-Trudeau. 

These are all significant achievements for us, but they could not have been made without the support of our partners in the aviation community. Meanwhile, the nature and aims of these achievements show that we are good partners in turn. Our partnerships have only grown stronger in the face of this year’s challenges. We have collaborated closely to deliver on our mandate and, together, to keep essential travel in Canada moving.  

Of utmost importance is our strong relationship with our screening contractors. I thank them and their screening-officer workforce for the dedication they have shown in the past year. They have proven themselves agile and adaptable in implementing the many changes necessitated by the pandemic to our processes and procedures and, as I said earlier, in caring for passengers while they did it.

I also wish to thank Marguerite Nadeau, our Chair, and the rest of our Board of Directors for their support this year. We were most fortunate to have their collective expertise, experience and guidance in this time of uncertainty. 

My thanks of course also go to CATSA’s staff for their hard work, adaptability and perseverance – and moreso for the creativity and ingenuity so many brought to bear. It has been my privilege to be at the head of this organization as we responded to the past year.

I wish this were a post-mortem of a difficult period for aviation, and for Canada as a whole, but it is not. We entered a long tunnel just over a year ago, and though we can now see some light at the end, it is still a ways away. But what I have seen in the past year makes me confident that we will come out of this a stronger, better organization – able to surmount any challenge and to effectively support our partners and stakeholders during the recovery of the air travel industry. 

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