USA apologizes after Canadian official was asked to remove turban at airport

Navdeep Bains

Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, went through the TSA checkpoint once without any issues but was asked to go through additional screenings because of his turban.

In 2007, the United States issued Sikh Air Travelers' Bill of Rights, stipulating that Sikhs have the right to wear turbans and religious scarves during security screenings in USA airports, as well as the right not to remove their head-covering in public.

Officials with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department Homeland Security apologized to Canada on behalf of the USA government.

Bains was flying back to Canada after a meeting in April 2017 with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor when the incident took place.

"I think it's quiet unfortunate that somebody so high profile who holds a responsible position In Canada would be subjected to such screening and would be asked to remove their turban".

Bains said when he travels he doesn't like to reveal his cabinet position because he wants to see how things play out for people who aren't ministers or lawmakers.

The security agent ran the swab test again, and when it did not detect anything, he was allowed to proceed to his boarding gate. Then he was asked to remove the turban. "Security is important. We cannot compromise on security".

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"I politely replied that I did not represent a security threat, and that I had passed all security checks".

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she felt it was important to voice Ottawa's concerns about the way Bains was treated in order to "support all Canadians travelling across the border".

"He [security agent] told me to take off my turban".

Bains, a Sikh, refused to comply with TSA's request, which he said was a first in his many American flights. But upon learning of my diplomatic status, they told me that everything is fine. The US officials said that removing the turban is not part of airport security protocol and have apologized to Bains for the incident. "This is not a satisfactory answer", he said.

TSA spokesman Mike England told HuffPost that the department reviewed closed-circuit video of the episode and determined that the agent conducting the screening did not follow standard operating procedures.

"The officer subsequently received additional training", the government agency said.

Ms Negron said that additional security screening may be required of individuals wearing head coverings, and that it applies to all head coverings and does not target any one group.

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