A complaint initiated by the World Sikh Organization of Canada has resulted in the Canadian Air Transport and Safety Agency (CATSA) issuing an operational advisory and remedial training to airport screeners with respect to the screening of the kirpan.
In November 2017, Transport Canada allowed blades of up to 6 cm in length on domestic and international flights in Canada. Sikh passengers can wear small kirpans with blades of up to 6 cm on all flights out of Canada, except those to the US.
Sikh passengers may be screened while wearing the kirpan and are not required to remove it when passing through security. Sikh passengers should be offered the option of a private search area. While the kirpan will be visually inspected, it can continue to be worn on the person during screening. The kirpan can be held away from the body when the screener scans the area.
In January 2019, WSO legal counsel Balpreet Singh filed a complaint with CATSA after he was repeatedly told by a security screener at Regina Airport that he would have to remove his small kirpan in order to be screened. Balpreet Singh insisted that he should not be required to remove the kirpan and after a delay during which a senior manager was consulted, he was permitted to proceed without removing his kirpan for security screening.
CATSA reviewed the incident including video footage and as a result, managers at Regina Airport have been provided remedial training on the screening of the kirpan and all screeners have been provided a screening aid document which sets out the proper procedures for screening passengers wearing kirpans. Furthermore, CATSA has sent an operational advisory to all Canadian airports reiterating the correct procedures for the screening of the kirpan.
Balpreet Singh said on Tuesday: “I’m grateful that CATSA has followed up our complaint with steps to ensure that security screeners will be more familiar with the kirpan and correct screening procedures. I had heard anecdotally from several Sikh air passengers about difficulties they faced while traveling with the kirpan but problems can only be addressed after they are highlighted. When such an incident took place with me, I was able to use my complaint to bring about what I hope will be positive change that will be of assistance to all Sikh passengers who fly with their kirpans. I would encourage all Sikhs to know their rights and responsibilities and make sure that where they feel they have been treated inappropriately, they raise the issue. The WSO is always ready to be of service in this regard.”