Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains says he has accepted an apology from U.S. officials after he was asked by airport security in Detroit to remove his turban.
Bains, who is Sikh, says that wearing a turban is “one of the most dutiful acts for a person of the faith,” and that being told to take it off was “frustrating” and “awkward.”
He told reporters in Toronto on Thursday that he had made it to the gate while boarding his flight in April, 2017 when he was asked to remove the turban. He did not comply.
Bains had already gone through additional security screen, as per U.S. policy that allows Sikhs to keep their turbans on during airport checks.
“Once they realized my position, who I was, I was ultimately allowed to fly,” Bains said.
“But for me, this is an issue that I think speaks to discrimination, and discrimination happens to many people,” he added. “I’m in a very fortunate position to talk about it.”
“I understand how important security is,” Bains said, “but proper process needs to be followed.”
Bains added that he has travelled to the U.S. and internationally many times and had never before been asked to remove his turban.
While Bains, as a member of federal cabinet, carries a special diplomatic passport, his office said he did not use his status or show the passport until he was asked by a supervisor to confirm his identity.
Following the incident, Foreign Affairs officials spoke with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration. It was concluded that the way security officials acted towards Bains was against protocol, and the Americans have apologized, according to Bains’ office.
Has happened to Sajjan in Canada
On CTV’s Power Play, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he has also experienced similar encounters at airports, including in Canada.
"I've actually had it in Canada," Sajjan said, noting it’s not an issue exclusive to the U.S., and that he’s gone through the U.S. system smoothly.
"We have a position and a title right now, but it shouldn’t be that you need a title to have answers or to be treated in a certain way. All Canadians should have been given the same respect," he said.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau was asked about similar incidents happening in Canada and said that they "make sure" that Canadian airport security officials "respect the rules that apply in the case of turbans, but at the same time, take care of ensuring that security is covered."
With a report from CTV News’ Michel Boyer