Navdeep Bains, the Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, likes to travel incognito—“to understand better what ordinary people are going through when they sometimes have trouble getting along with people in a position of authority,” as he put it in a story by CNN.
He was doing this in Detroit Metro Airport, heading back to Canada after talks on topics which included strengthening Canada-US relations in April of last year, when airport security asked him to remove his turban.
Minister Bains is a Sikh, a person in whose religion wearing a turban is a mandatory sacred act for men. In Canada, Sikh men in the armed forces and law enforcement agencies have legally won the battle to wear their sacred headgear even though it’s not the official uniform headgear.
So of course he said no.
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,” Bains told the newspaper. “I will never be asked to take my clothes off. It’s the same thing. It’s a piece of linen.”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.
It was at this point Bains decided he’d had enough of being treated like an ordinary person, and whipped out his diplomatic passport. Of course then he was let through, and ultimately received an official apology. TSA said in a statement that the employees involved are receiving further training in appropriate procedures.
But Bains has decided to speak out about it anyway, to make a larger point. From the CNN video:
For me this is an issue I think that speaks of discrimination and discrimination happens with many people.
From a statement given to CNN:
Unfortunately these types of incidents do occur from time to time to minorities in particular. But it should never become the norm.
And I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Bains if he had been an ordinary person, brown-skinned and turban-wearing, with no diplomatic passport. Would they have refused to let him board? Arrested him? Strip-searched him? Put him on the no-fly list?
It’s more Trump effect. Shame.