US regrets asking Canadian minister to remove turban

Canada's industry minister Navdeep Bains (left) with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Mr Bains was leaving Detroit in April 2017 when security agents asked him to remove his turban.
Canada's industry minister Navdeep Bains (left) with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Mr Bains was leaving Detroit in April 2017 when security agents asked him to remove his turban.PHOTO: AFP

OTTAWA (BLOOMBERG) - The US Transportation Security Administration is expressing "regret" after airport security demanded that Canada's industry minister remove his turban, sparking a Canadian government complaint.

Mr Navdeep Bains, who is Sikh and serves as Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, was leaving Detroit in April 2017 when airport security officers asked him to remove the turban. He declined on religious grounds.

"Once they realised my position, who I was, I was ultimately allowed to fly," Mr Bains said in televised remarks on Thursday (May 10), after Montreal's La Presse newspaper reported the incident.

He said the issue "speaks to discrimination" and was the first time that's happened to him, adding that US officials apologised.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said separately from Washington that her department spoke with US officials about the situation and "expressed Canada's perspective".

The Transportation Security Administration, in a statement released on Thursday by assistant press secretary Michelle Negron, said it reviewed security videos and found the officer checking Mr Bains didn't follow procedure and has since received training. The written statement did not include an apology.

"We regret the screening experience did not meet the expectations of Mr Bains," the agency said.

"When possible, passengers may remove non-formfitting headwear before proceeding through the security checkpoint. We recognise that passengers may be unable or unwilling to remove items for religious, medical, or other reasons, and should expect to undergo additional screening protocols."