Canadian minister told to remove turban in United States airport

Navdeep Singh Bains

Innovation Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Singh Bains rises in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS Adrian WyldMore

The Minister of science of Canada Navdeep Baines reported about how airport officials in the USA tried to remove his turban.

Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of innovation, science and economic development, is a Sikh whose religion requires him to wear a turban.

In 2007, United States travel policy was adjusted to permit followers of the Sikh religion to keep their headgear on during security inspection.

A Canadian Cabinet minister said Thursday he was subject to a discriminatory security check at Detroit's airport that caused Canada to complain to US government officials. "I reluctantly gave him my diplomatic passport", Bains proceeded to say, adding that as soon as the security personnel found out his diplomatic status, they allowed him to board the aircraft. "But it was because of who I was, and that should not be the case".

What really stunned him was that, upon finding out that he is a cabinet minister, the security officials assured him that 'everything is fine'.

He said the agent asked for his name and ID, and it was then that he showed his diplomatic passport. "Security is important. We cannot compromise on security".

"I went through all the security checks without revealing my identity as a minister", he told La Presse. He said when they realized who he was they allowed him to travel and not take it off. Bains complained to Canada's foreign minister who then complained to USA officials.

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"As a Sikh, wearing the turban is considered one of the most dutiful acts for a person of the faith and I am proud to represent my community", Bains said in a statement.

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".

"I've actually had it in Canada", Sajjan said, noting that it's not an issue exclusive to the USA and that he's gone through the US system smoothly.

"They would never ask me to remove my clothes", he said.

He said he was astonished by the agents' response to the incident. The Transportation Security Administration, in a statement on Thursday, said it reviewed security videos and found the staff checking Mr Bains did not follow procedure and has since received training.

When he appeared at his scheduled gate, a second security agent approached him, requesting Bains return to the security checkpoint - and again telling him to remove his head-covering.

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