Review ordered after veiled women board flight unchecked
A controversial YouTube video has prompted the government to examine whether airlines are applying security measures that require staff to see passengers' faces before boarding.
Transport Minister John Baird said in a statement issued Sunday that the regulations are necessary to confirm the identity of travellers and apply to all passengers, regardless of culture or religion.
The minister ordered the investigation in response to a recent video posted on YouTube, which shows two veiled women boarding an Air Canada flight in Montreal last month without being asked to reveal their faces.
In the video, a man travelling with the group hands over their passports and the women walk through without removing their veils.
"If the reports are true, the situation is deeply disturbing and poses a serious threat to the security of the air travelling public," Baird said.
The video was posted online under the title "A major Canadian airline risks your safety, pandering to Muslim sensibilities."
The video's creator, Mick Flynn, said he started filming after noticing the women in the airport lounge.
"I'm sure they were checked when they came into the airport (…) and when you go into the scanner and everything, but the fact is, they weren't at the boarding gate," he told CTV News Channel from Portpatrick, Scotland.
Flynn said he and his wife complained about the incident to airport staff and considered skipping their flight.
The clip has drawn thousands of viewers, many of whom wrote inflammatory comments and racial slurs. The video encouraged viewers to contact Public Safety Minister Vic Toews about the matter, and even published the minister's office email.
The issue of verifying the identity of Muslim women who wear the traditional face veils -- niqabs or burkas -- has surfaced several times in recent years as security concerns take centre stage.
Elections Canada ruled in 2007 that veiled women can cast ballots, despite opposition from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Conservative government later proposed legislation to reverse that ruling, but the effort failed to gain support among other parties.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Muslim Congress last year endorsed legislation that would ban face-covering veils altogether, calling the veils a symbol of Islamic extremism as well as a security risk.
The debate also rages on abroad, particularly in France, which passed a law in 2004 prohibiting students and staff from wearing veils and other religious symbols in state schools.