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Harper government backtracks on searching turbans & other head coverings

Posted in Canada, Talking Politics

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Published on June 19, 2015 with No Comments

• The reversal only affects screening procedures for domestic flights within Canada.
• “Recently, I became aware of this new procedure from my experience going through security at my local airport and from other members of the community who experienced similar treatment.I immediately brought this to the attention of the Minister of Transportation.This was a decision made by department officials.Our government has taken action and directed that it be reversed immediately on flights within Canada.We will discuss our concerns with this practice with the United States, and seek alternative practices for US bound flights from Canada,” Tim Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism
The Harper government has swiftly reversed a new policy at Canadian airports that required turbaned Sikhs and others in head coverings to automatically submit to a secondary search for explosive residue.
The move came after Vancouver frequent flier and Nexus card holder Raj Hundal told his story CBC TV.
Hundal flies to the United States several times a month and through the Nexus pre-clearance process, he’salready been deemed a low security risk.Yet recently during each trip through security, he said he was being subjected to a secondary search, which is usually just applied to passengers randomly.
Hundal said screening officials told him it was because a new Transport Canada policy, introduced in April, requires anyone wearing anything on their head to either remove it, or have their hands tested for explosives after a pat down.
“Why not have this new explosive residue test being done on normal clothing?” Hundal raised anal important questions.They were specifically targeting headgear and turbans. It’s highlighting to the general public that people who look like me are security threats. And we’re not,” he said.
Hundal, along with Canadian members of the World Sikh Organization, said they demanded an explanation from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is responsible for security screening at Canadian airports.
Over the next month, Hundal said he documented his experience at four U.S. airports he visited — Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Bellingham, Wash.He said he was only asked once to submit to a secondary explosive check, and even then the U.S. agent apologized for making a mistake.
Later a spokesman for Transport Minister Lisa Raitt sent another email indicating the government would change the policy,reportedCBC.”This was a decision made by department officials.The government recently became aware of this decision and has directed that it be reversed immediately on flights within Canada,” said the spokesperson.
Later in the evening, the Minister of State for Multiculturalism Tim Uppal — the only turbaned Sikh in Stephen Harper’s government — said in a Facebook post that he had raised the issue with Raitt’s office.For now, the reversal only affects screening procedures for domestic flights within Canada.Raitt’s office also said the intention is to remove the mandatory secondary checks for turbaned passengers on U.S.-bound flights too.

 

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