OTTAWA – The country's airport security agency is reviewing its dress code after a Muslim screener complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission that she had to wear a uniform she deemed immodest.

The Teamsters union and the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations announced Monday that they filed a religious discrimination complaint on behalf of Halima Muse.

Muse worked for five years as a screener at Toronto airport for a security company called Garda. Until last February, she wore trousers on the job, although she wasn't happy with them.

"She never felt comfortable wearing the pants as she felt that they were not modest enough and showed the shape of her body," the complaint stated. "As a result, Ms. Muse always kept her jacket on throughout her shift."

She rejected a below-the-knee uniform skirt and wanted a longer garment to conform with Islamic dress code, which calls for women to wear loose-fitting clothes that cover the entire body except the face, hands and feet.

She sewed herself an ankle-length skirt in the uniform fabric and colour and wore it for about six months until the company, citing uniform regulations set by the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency, refused to allow the change and suspended her in August.
The agency contracts Garda, which in turn employs the screeners.

Anna-Karina Tabunar, a spokeswomen for the security agency, said this is the first complaint about uniforms.

"We were just made aware of this complaint today," she said.

"We're not treating it as simply a question of a new skirt . . . we're looking at this as a policy issue. We are evaluating all the aspects of this request and that takes some time to gather the facts and to evaluate the impact it will have on CATSA's uniform policy."

She said the agency will ask Garda "to make an arrangement where she won't be financially penalized while CATSA makes its decision."

The rights commission does not comment on complaints. It normally investigates complaints while trying to broker a mediated solution. If it cannot produce a settlement and its investigators find the complaint warranted, they can forward it to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which has to power to hold hearings and impose penalties for discrimination.