WSO Helps Resolve Edmonton Airport Turban Complaint

Ottawa (April 25, 2013):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada has assisted in the resolution of a complaint involving the improper removal and search of a turban at the Edmonton International Airport last month. 

On March 5, 2013 Permvir Singh Chohan was passing through security and although the metal detector did not activate, he was asked to remove his patka (small turban).  Although Permvir pointed out that the alarm had not gone off, he was told that all headgear must be removed if it is not for religious purposes.  Permvir explained that he wears his patka for religious purposes but was told it would still have to be removed regardless. 

Because Permvir was getting late for his flight, he agreed to take his patka off but asked for the name of the supervisor on duty.  As a result of this incident, Permvir was the last person to board his flight.

Upon arrival in Toronto, Permvir contact WSO which then initiated a complaint to the Canadian Air Transportation Authority (CATSA). 

CATSA conducted an investigation of the incident in which the airport video records were reviewed and interviews were conducted with the screening officers involved. 

In its response to WSO’s complaint, CATSA has confirmed that religious head garments are not subjected to additional searches and are not required to be removed unless the alarm sounds. 

With respect to Permvir’s experience, CATSA has apologized and expressed “regret that Mr. Chohan was subjected to an improper screening experience.” 

According to CATSA, its investigation found that Permvir’s  “turban may have been perceived as a non-religious headwear” and that  “[t]his matter has been addressed with the screening contractor, who has taken steps to ensure that this does not reoccur”.

WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh said, “CATSA has clarified in the past that turbans will not be searched or asked to be removed if the alarm does not sound.  This appears to have been an error by a screening officer which has now been addressed."

Reacting to CATSA’s investigation and apology, Permvir said, “I’d like to thank WSO for their assistance in resolving this situation and I hope my experience will result in a positive change so that others don’t have to go through something similar.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.

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