The United States has apologised to Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, after security checks at Detroit Metro Airport had required him to remove his turban.
Bains described the episode, which took place in April 2017, in an interview published on Thursday in the online newspaper La Presse saying “I went through all the security checks without revealing my identity as a minister. I did it knowingly, as is my habit, to understand better what ordinary people are going through when they sometimes have trouble getting along with people in a position of authority.”
Following the incident, officials in Ottawa spoke to the US Embassy there as well as to officials in Washington, Officials with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security apologized to Canada on behalf of the US government.
Bains said he initially went through a metal detector without any problem, but was then asked to go through an additional security procedure because of his turban. An agent asked him to go through another screening but the machine was not working properly, Bains said. When it emitted a warning sound, a security officer asked Bains to remove his turban.
“I asked him why I had to take off my turban since the metal detector had worked well. I will never be asked to take my clothes off. It’s the same thing. It’s a piece of linen” Bains told the newspaper.
After passing a second test Bains was allowed to continue, he said. But when he reached the boarding gate, less than 20 minutes before departure, a security guard approached him and said he had to go back to security because protocol had not been followed. He again asked Bains to remove the turban.
“I politely replied that I did not represent a security threat, and that I had passed all security checks. He then asked for my name and identification. I reluctantly handed him my diplomatic passport” Bains said he was then allowed to board.
TSA spokesman, Michael McCarthy in a statement said “we regret the screening experience did not meet the expectations of Mr. Bains. Upon review of airport closed-circuit video, we determined that the officer conducting the screening did not follow standard operating procedures and therefore received additional training”.
The TSA spokesman added that “all persons wearing head coverings may be subject to additional security screening, which may include an officer-conducted or self-conducted pat-down. TSA does this to ensure that prohibited items or weapons are not concealed beneath any type of clothing and brought onto an aircraft. This policy covers all headwear and is not directed at any one particular item or group.”