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U.S. air security 'regrets' telling Canadian minister to remove turban

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Navdeep Singh Bains

Navdeep Bains's turban is at the center of a controversy, leading the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is expressing "regret" after airport security demanded that Justin Trudeau's industry minister remove the headpiece, sparking a Canadian government complaint.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau was asked about similar incidents happening in Canada and said that they "make sure" that Canadian airport security officials "respect the rules that apply in the case of turbans but at the same time take care of ensuring that security is covered".

In 2007, USA travel policy was adjusted to permit followers of the Sikh religion to keep their headgear on during security inspection.

In an interview Thursday, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said "Canada's perspective" was expressed to the US government. "They would never ask me to take off my clothes", he said.

He added: "I never told them who I was [till then], because I wanted to know how things would go for people who are not ministers or lawmakers".

"It doesn't matter what your status is, what your position is", he said in the televised interview. However, after he was allowed through, the security guard caught up with him and asked him to come back for more screening. He then asked for my name and identification. "This is not a satisfactory answer", the minister told La Presse, Canada's French language newspaper.

"He told me to take off my turban". Bains told La Presse that he had accepted the apology and only chose to go public to bring awareness to the issue and ignite dialogue about diversity.

While the first security officer let him go, Bains was approached by another agent at his flight gate, demanding that the minister go back to the checkpoint and remove his turban.

Mike England, a spokesman for the US's Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said closed-circuit video showed that the officer conducting the screening had not followed standard operating procedures.

After Thursday's story emerged the TSA in the US issued another statement. "This policy covers all headwear and is not directed at any one particular item or group", he added. He said passengers who are unwilling to remove headwear for religious, medical or other reasons should expect to undergo additional screenings, which may include officer-conducted or self-conducted pat-downs.

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