Aviation securityCanadians outraged: Veiled Muslim women not required to lift veil, prove ID at airports
Canadian airport security personnel do not ask veiled Muslims women to lift their veils, show and ID, and prove their identity; the veiled women do not even interact with security personnel: rather, a man traveling with the women typically hands in all the passports and is the only one to communicate with airline staff while the veiled women simply walk through, unchecked and unidentified; a video showing two veiled women walking unchecked through security at Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport causes outrage in Canada
Even male criminals have escaped by hiding behind the veil // Source: about.com
Frequent flyers know the drill well: take off your shoes, surrender your tweezers, and pack your shampoo in those little plastic baggies before lining up for the naked body scanners. How about lifting your niqab? Apparently not.
The Toronto Sun’s Brian Lilley and Bryn Weese write that neither airlines nor security services are asking Muslim women to lift their veils and prove that the face beneath matches their photo ID.
The issue came to light through a video taken by Mick Flynn of Bradford, England. Flynn was boarding a flight at Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport when he witnessed two women with their faces covered board an Air Canada Heathrow-bound flight without being asked to remove their veils.
In fact, in the video that Flynn has posted online, a man traveling with the women hands in all the passports and is the only one to interact with airline staff while two veiled women simply walk through.
“I complained at the desk — and again as I boarded the plane — asking if the pilot was happy that two women boarded without being identified,” Flynn told QMI News Agency. “Both members of staff whom I spoke to were flustered and clearly embarrassed.”
Lilley and Bryn Weese write that Flynn’s communication with Air Canada and his video posting have resulted in a threatened lawsuit from the airline. As for answers from the company about security procedures, their response reveals holes in Canada’s air security.
“Airline passengers have already undergone multiple security checks before arriving at the boarding gate,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told QMI. “A final check is made at the gate prior to boarding in order to confirm passengers on the flight.”
Air Canada says it is capable of checking identification in a private room away from the check-in counter, but said the real responsibility for security measures lies with CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency.
CATSA. disagrees. Greg MacDougall, a spokesman for CATSA, told QMI that their guards are primarily looking for metal, weapons, or other banned material, not ensuring that veiled faces match passport photos. “We don’t have concerns with that. We have concerns with the fact if the person has any metal under their clothing,” MacDougall said.
A former CATSA employee, who, until recently worked as a frontline screener, tells QMI: “We were never allowed to ask anyone with a veil to lift it. It is their religion.”
Most airports, however, have wide gaps between where baggage is checked and the secure portions of the airport.
Transport Canada says there should be no confusion: “The airline must be able to verify the identity of all passengers before they are allowed to board,” the department said in a written statement.
Lawyer David Harris of INSIGNIS Strategic Research says Canadians should be concerned about what he deems preferential treatment. “Full veiling has been a boon for those participating in criminal and terrorist operations,” Harris said pointing to the story of Mustaf Jama.
Jama, a Somali national with a long criminal record, was wanted in Britain for the 2006 murder of police constable Sharon Beshenivsky. As police closed in to arrest the career criminal, Jama was able to escape back to Somalia by wearing a full veil and boarding a flight at Heathrow airport.
Harris’s call for lifting the veil is backed up by two Muslim groups often at odds with each other, the Muslim Canadian Congress and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Canada.
“Women who wear the niqab are not constrained by the religious belief from removing their veil for legitimate reasons, and security is one of them,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of CAIR-CAN.
Gardee says it would be preferable if female staff were able to conduct any screening that involved removing the veil but adds that if female staff are not available, the women must still be forced to remove their niqab.