American officials have apologized to a Canadian politician after he revealed he was stopped and forced to remove his turban at a Detroit airport last year.
In an interview the week with Canada’s La Presse newspaper, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains—a devout Sikh whose turban is part of his religious observance—said that, in April 2017, he was stopped by TSA employees, who forced him to remove the turban.
“I went through all the security checks without revealing my identity as a minister,” Bains said. “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.”
Bains said he was asked to remove his turban after being routed to an additional security checkpoint, even though he’d passed through an airport metal detector without incident.
“I asked him why I had to take off my turban since the metal detector had worked well,” Bains told La Presse.
Then, after arriving at his gate, Bains said an airport security official approached him and asked him to return to the security checkpoint because of an earlier lapse in protocol. He also says he was asked remove his turban once again. At that point, Bains said he reluctantly showed the security guard his diplomatic passport, and was allowed to board his plane without incident.
“I was very frustrated and disappointed that this occurred but ultimately I was allowed to fly,” Bains said. “But it was because of who I was and that should not be the case. It doesn’t matter what your status is and what your position is.”
CNN reported on Thursday that the Canadian government lodged a complaint with the American embassy, and received apologies from both the TSA and the department of Homeland Security.
In a statement to CNN, a TSA spokesperson acknowledged that agency guidelines do allow for additional security measures to be applied toward travelers wearing headgear, but nevertheless apologized for the Bains’ experience:
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.
Looking back on the incident, Bains was unapologetic about what transpired.
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. Unfortunately these types of incidents do occur from time to time to minorities in particular. But it should never become the norm.