US regrets asking Canada minister to remove turban

OTTAWA • The US Transportation Security Administration is expressing "regret" after airport security demanded Canada's industry minister remove his turban, sparking a complaint from his government.

Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, a Sikh, was leaving Detroit in April last year when airport security staff 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, after Montreal's La Presse daily reported the incident. He said the issue "speaks to discrimination", adding that American officials apologised.

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

The statement did not include an apology: "We regret the screening experience did not meet the expectations of Mr Bains... "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."

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Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, a Sikh, declined to remove his turban at the airport.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'US regrets asking Canada minister to remove turban'. Print Edition | Subscribe