A video shot at Montreal’s Pierre Trudeau International Airport which appears to show veiled passengers passing through an Air Canada departure gate without having their faces checked against their passports is causing a global media sensation and has spurred a federal probe.
Federal Transport Minister John Baird wants an investigation of the incident, saying such actions could pose a serious threat to the security of the travelling public.
The video was posted on YouTube by a British traveller at the airport. Shot from a side angle, it shows a man walking up to the boarding gate with four women. He proceeds to hand over all of their passports and they pass through the gate, with at least two of the veiled women passing through without being asked to show their faces. The women (at least they are assumed to be women) are wearing full veils that block everything but the eyes.
CBC News reports that there is cause for caution because the video has been heavily edited and it is not clear what happened before or after the sequence posted.
In a statement released yesterday, Air Canada said the airline is aware of the video and “the safety and security of our operations is our number one priority.”
“We comply with Transport Canada regulations requiring passengers to present government-issued photo ID before boarding … and our agents are trained to verify photo ID in a private area away from other passengers, as required for religious or medical reasons,” said Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur.
Air Canada has “reminded our employees of these procedures and are also working with Transport Canada on this matter,” she said.
Baird said there are procedures in place to verify the identity of anyone who has his or her face covered. He says the Canadian approach to the issue is consistent with international standards, regardless of culture or religion.
Last year, the Canadian Muslim Congress supported legislation that would ban face-covering veils altogether, arguing the veils pose a security risk and represented Islamic extremism.