A member of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, who happens to be a Sikh who wears the traditional turban, was singled out for extra scrutiny by US officials at the Detroit airport as he was returning to Canada after an official visit to the US.
Officials from the Trump administration issued an apology after a security agent at a Detroit airport repeatedly demanded that a Canadian cabinet minister remove his turban, the minister has revealed.
Navdeep Bains, the country’s minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, described the incident in an interview with the French-language paper La Presse on Thursday.
Bains was returning to Toronto after meetings with Michigan state leaders in April 2017 and had already passed through regular security checks, but because he was wearing a turban, a security agent told him that he would have to undergo additional checks, according to La Presse.
But what struck me was this added piece of information.
Bains said that when he travels, he rarely discloses his identity as a cabinet minister, in order to better understand the travel experiences – and frustrations – of people not afforded similar privileges.
When he appeared at his scheduled gate, a second security agent approached him, requesting Bains return to the security checkpoint – and again telling him to remove his head-covering.
“He told me: ‘You have to take off your turban.’ I responded politely that it was not a security threat and that I had passed all the security controls. Then he asked for my name and identification. I reluctantly gave him my diplomatic passport.”
It was the moments that followed which most incensed Bains.
“I was speechless … I was at the point of boarding and they asked me to take off my turban. But upon learning of my diplomatic status, they told me that everything is fine. That’s not a satisfactory response.”
Good for Bains that he rarely uses the privileges of office, especially since he must be fully aware that as a turban-wearing Sikh he will face the immediate distrust of ignorant and xenophobic people everywhere, but especially in the US.
Scott Pruitt, the head of the US EPA who seems intent on getting as many privileges as he can while in office whether entitled to or not, could learn something from him. Pruitt has been living the high-life at taxpayer expense, among other things demanding that he travel first class everywhere, stay at luxury hotels, have a 24/7 security detail, a bullet-proof SUV, a bullet proof desk, and have sirens used to clear his way through traffic even when going on routine matters. You can read all about it here.
But while Pruitt may be extreme in the brazenness of his demands, other politicians here are not shy about using their office for personal gain, as can be seen in the number of people who enter Congress as people of modest means and then become incredibly wealthy. Former house speaker Dennis Hastert (whose net worth went from $270,000 when he entered to between $4 million and $17 million when he left 20 years later) and current senator Bob Corker (who was deeply in debt when he entered office in 2007 but has now become the fourth wealthiest person in the senate with an estimated wealth of $69 million) both immediately come to mind but they are far from being the only ones.
Donald Trump was right when he called Washington, DC a swamp that was full of greedy people feeding out of the public trough. But he himself is one of the greediest and his administration is not only full of other swamp dwellers, they actively encourage corruption. We have a full-blown kleptocracy.