Transport investigation ordered after veiled women board flight unchecked
Published: Sunday, August 1, 2010 | 3:59 PM ET
Canadian Press The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Transport Minister John Baird has ordered an investigation into whether airlines are enforcing rules that require staff to see the faces of passengers who board their flights.
He said in a statement issued Sunday that there are procedures in place to verify the identity of anyone who has their face covered, adding the approach is consistent with international standards, regardless of culture or religion.
A recent YouTube video posted by a British man appears to show two women boarding an Air Canada flight in Montreal last month who were not asked to remove their veils to check against their passports.
The video shows a man travelling with the group handing over the passports for all them and the women went through without showing their faces.
Baird called the situation “deeply disturbing” and said such actions pose “a serious threat to the security of the air travelling public.”
The edited video, complete with titles and cinematic soundtrack, was posted online under the title: A major Canadian airline risks your safety, pandering to Muslim sensibilities.
It urged viewers to write to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and included the minister’s office email. The video generated thousands of hits and a slew of comments, including racial slurs and rants against political correctness.
It is not the first time federal government has wrestled with the issue of verifying the identity of Muslim women who wear the traditional niqabs or burkas to cover their faces.
Elections Canada ruled in 2007 that veiled women can cast ballots — a decision that Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he “profoundly” disagreed. It prompted the Conservative government to introduce legislation to overturn the agency’s decision.
But the effort was abandoned last year and the Tories blamed a lack of opposition support.
The Canadian Muslim Congress, also last year, came out in favour of legislation that would ban face-covering veils altogether, arging the veils pose a security risk, and represented Islamic extremism.
The French government has been fighting a long-running battle to ban face veils and characterized them as an unacceptable challenge to the republic.
A law banning students and staff from wearing veils and any other religious symbols in state schools was passed in France in 2004.