Montreal woman files complaint after her curly hair searched 3 times at airports

Click to play video: 'Montreal woman claims airport security has searched her curly hair multiple times'
Montreal woman claims airport security has searched her curly hair multiple times
A Montreal woman with curly hair says airport security has searched her mane multiple times when traveling, without any specific reason. It's a practice she finds invasive and discriminatory. As Global's Gloria Henriquez reports, the woman has filed a complaint and with CATSA, Canada's Air Transport Security Authority – Jul 7, 2022

A Montreal woman with curly hair says airport security has searched her locks multiple times when travelling, without any specific reason.

Christine Rodriguez says she has been travelling regularly for work but claims that in the past month and a half, her hair has been searched three times at different Canadian airports.

She says that at first, she didn’t make much of it.

“It was the first time in my life I was asked OK we need to check your hair and I’m like OK… And I kind of laughed,” Rodriguez says.

By the third time it happened, it was no laughing matter.

“I said, ‘OK this is ridiculous,’ I was a little bit upset,” Rodriguez explained.

READ MORE: Human Rights Commission investigates racial discrimination at Madisons

That’s when she says she decided to file a complaint to CATSA, Canada’s Air Transport Security Agency.

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Rodriguez says she has been searched at the Calgary, Toronto and Montreal airports.

She says the searches always happened after going through the body scanner at security, while she was wearing a ponytail.

“It’s absurd in the first place, because I can’t hide anything in my hair,” Rodriguez said.

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She believes the practice is discriminatory and triggering, because there is a history of discrimination or unwanted touching for people who have curly hair.

“So the whole idea of having your hair touched for people with Afro hair becomes a very sensitive issue and in this instance, it just doesn’t seem necessary,” Rodriguez explained.

Rodriguez would like for CATSA to offer more sensitivity training to its employees.

The Center For Research-Action on Race Relations agrees.

“Black women’s hair has always been treated by many authorities as being either problematic, unprofessional, unaesthetic and therefore not very business-like,” Niemi said. “We’ve had cases in the past when Black women’s hair has become an issue in the eyes of employers and in the eyes of security officials.”

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Niemi recommends anyone who is subject to a pat down because of their hair at a Canadian airport and feels it’s discriminatory, file a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, given that CATSA is under federal jurisdiction.

“It’s a matter of coming up with ways and means to protect one’s human rights especially when one feels like the search is intrusive and biased but also through the complaint seeking remedies in order to prevent the situation from happening again in the near future,” Niemi added.

Meanwhile CATSA claims they haven’t received Rodriguez’s complaint and cannot trigger an investigation without it.

They say they have received five other complaints in the past two years related to pat downs after an individual’s hairstyle triggered an alarm at the full body scanner.

“In the event that a passenger alarms during the full body scan process, the alarm must be resolved prior to the passenger being permitted through security screening,” wrote Suzanne Perseo, a spokesperson for CATSA. “There are several options available to passengers, one being a private search. For security reasons, we cannot comment on dangerous items found during the screening process.”

Perseo went on to say that when an issue has been identified, they work to investigate and review the passenger’s screening process and ensure procedures are being followed and additional training for screening staff is provided if required.

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As for Rodriguez, she says she is travelling again this weekend and she is worried she will be searched again.

“I think every time it happens I’ll continue filing a complaint,” Rodriguez said.

She says the goal is that it doesn’t happen again to her or others.

Click to play video: 'Black hair care: Canadians open about their hair journeys'
Black hair care: Canadians open about their hair journeys

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