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Remain vigilant while travelling, Baird tells Canadians

A passenger reads a carry on restriction sign in the departures area of Pearson Airport in Toronto, January 7, 2010.


Transport Minister John Baird says Canadians must remain vigilant while travelling by air amid new security warnings.

Mr. Baird says there's been new, specific information that's given him cause for concern since the attempted attack on a American airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.

While he wouldn't discuss the specifics of the threats that led Transport Canada to put all airlines and carriers on high alert on the weekend, he described it as something at medium-level that wasn't imminent.

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The warnings don't suggest anything at the level of 9-11, he added, and are not meant to create panic.

Mr. Baird, speaking in Toronto after an unrelated funding announcement, says the new information is a concern and people should maintain heightened vigilance.

The government has no immediate plans to accelerate the deployment of full-body scanners at airports as a result of the warnings, Baird added, saying heightened security measures are already under way.

Transport Canada's message came late Saturday after Canada received credible intelligence of a potential terrorist threat.

"Further sharing of intelligence following the December 25th terrorist attempt on the United States has prompted the government to remind airlines and airports to continue to be vigilant and apply screening measures with consistency and vigour," the warning says.

British and U.S. intelligence have expressed concern that more Yemeni-trained terrorists are heading to North America. CTV cited sources saying Canadian intelligence also had credible information of other terrorists planning to come to Canada, possibly to use it as a jumping-off point to get into the United States.

Reached Monday night, Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette said the warning is still in effect, although no new security measures have been put in place.

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"We've basically asked the carriers, the aerodrome operators and the screening officers to exercise increased vigilance and strictly adhere to all the security requirements," she said, adding that she couldn't elaborate on what prompted the warning.

"Transport Canada continues to monitor the situation and is satisfied that existing security measures and the additional measures added since Dec. 25, 2009, are appropriate at this time to mitigate identified threats."

A spokesman for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is responsible for airport screening, would not reveal whether the agency has boosted security measures.

"We don't discuss or disclose this type of information on intelligence matters," spokesman Mathieu Larocque said.

Canadian airports tightened their security measures following a failed attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, was arraigned on six charges including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Last Friday, a judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

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In addition to the heightened security already in place, Transport Canada said it will install full-body scanners at major Canadian airports by the spring.

With files from Jill Mahoney and CTV

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