US issues apology after Canadian minister told to take off turban at airport

Navdeep Bains, a cabinet minister, said he refused to take off his turban after he had already passed through regular security checks

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Officials from the Trump administration issued an apology after a security agent at a Detroit airport repeatedly demanded that a Canadian cabinet minister remove his turban in an incident last year.

This is despite the US having amended its travel policy in 2007 allowing Sikhs to keep turbans on while passing during the security inspection process.

“I was speechless … I was at the point of boarding and they asked me to take off my turban. But upon learning of my diplomatic status, they told me that everything is fine. That’s not a satisfactory response,” Navdeep Singh Bains told French-language paper La Presse.

“It was an uncomfortable experience,” said Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The news has been picked up by most newspaper and news portals.

Navdeep is one of the four ministers hailing from the Sikh community to be appointed to the Cabinet under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the Liberal Party won the nation’s polls in 2015. The others are Harjit Singh Sajjan (defence)  minister job, Amarjeet Singh Sohi (Infrastructure) and Bardish Kaur Jhagger (Small Business and Tourism).

In that incident, Navdeep was returning to Toronto after meetings with Michigan state leaders in April 2017 and had already passed through regular security checks. As he was wearing a turban, a security agent told him that he would have to undergo additional checks, according to the report.

“He told me to take off my turban. I asked him why I would have to take off my turban when the metal detector had worked properly,”

He refused the agent’s request to remove his turban: “I believed that it was an intrusion into my private life … They would never ask me to take off my clothes,” he said. The agent eventually relented.

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.

“He told me: ‘You have to take off your turban.’ I responded politely that it was not a security threat and that I had passed all the security controls. Then he asked for my name and identification. I reluctantly gave him my diplomatic passport.”

It was the moments that followed which most incensed Navdeep. He  said that when he travels, he rarely discloses his identity as a cabinet minister, in order to better understand the travel experiences – and frustrations – of people not afforded similar privileges, reported UK newspaper The Guardian.

Navdeep said: “My hope is now that I’m talking about this, now this has come to public light, that we can avoid these type of instances going forward.”

But this is not about to magically go away as there are people who would defend the discriminatory practice. “So there’s a whole different spin on this from everyone else… everyone should have to follow protocol,” said one Facebook user.

 

RELATED STORY:

Turbanned outrider (Asia Samachar, 5 May 2018)

US law firm partner ‘optimistic’ about diversity in US legal profession (Asia Samachar, 24 March 2018)

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Asia. How to reach us: Facebook message or WhatsApp +6017-335-1399. Our email: editor@asiasamachar.com. For obituary announcements, click here]

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