"Frustrated" Canadian Minister Asked To Take Off Turban At Detroit Airport

Navdeep Singh Bains

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

"All security checks have been respected". Staff conducted all the necessary procedures, but then looked at the turban of the statesman and started to pick.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Bains described the episode, which took place in April 2017, in an interview published Thursday in the online newspaper La Presse. "I did it on goal, as is my habit, to understand what ordinary people go through when they get caught up with people in positions of authority", Bains was quoted as saying.

Following the incident, Foreign Affairs officials spoke with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration.

Bains had already gone through additional security screen, as per US policy that allows Sikhs to keep their turbans on when going through airport checks.

But shortly before his flight's departure time, he said, a security agent approached him and tried to take him back to the screening area for more checks. But when the officer had trouble with the machine, Bains said, he was asked to remove his turban. But at the gate, he said a security guard caught up with him and told him he would have to do the security check again and remove his turban.

"He [security agent] told me to take off my turban". It's the same thing. "It's a piece of linen", he said.

After passing a second test Bains was allowed to continue, he said. Bains told La Presse that he had accepted the apology and only made a decision to go public to bring awareness to the issue and ignite dialogue about diversity. If there are unresolved issues, passengers "may ask to remove the head covering in a private screening area".

"I'm about to embark, and you tell me to take off my turban".

Following this, the security officials asked him for his identification.

That's when Bains said he flashed his diplomatic passport - and the agent backed off.

"I understand how important security", Bains said, "but proper process needs to be followed".

"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".

"It should not become a norm", said Minister while stressing that these types of incidents occur from time to time to minorities in particular.

The U-S has since expressed regret and has apologized to Bains.

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