Press Release from Véhicule Press
Quill & Quire blog, June 14, 2008
Calgary Herald articles, June 16 and 17, 2008
Globe and Mail article, June 16, 2008
Jaspreet Singh on Véhicule Press website
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2008
CANADIAN AUTHOR FACES HARASSMENT AT AIRPORTS
Véhicule Press is concerned that when Calgary-based writer Jaspreet Singh checks in at Canadian airports he is being mistaken for someone with a similar name who appears on a “no fly list.”
This situation first arose when Jaspreet Singh, on an author tour, flew from Calgary to Ottawa on April 26, 2008 and on his return trip, Montreal to Calgary. In each case he was unable to access the electronic check-in facilities and had to contact Air Canada staff.
“I was subjected to a lengthy and detailed questioning in which my ability to travel by air was put into question … Air Canada employees informed me that I was on a ‘list’” but refused to give me particulars … On the return flight [from Montreal] Air Canada staff made the preposterous suggestion that I change my name…”
Toronto Appearances Cancelled
On June 13, 2008 Jaspreet Singh arrived at Calgary Airport on his way to participate in a main-stage event at the Luminato Toronto Festival of Arts + Creativity on June 14, and a book signing for his new novel, Chef, at BookExpo on June 15. When he tried the electronic check-in, it again would not process his ticket. Rather than experience the demeaning questioning process that he knew awaited him for a third time, Jaspreet Singh decided he could not take the flight that would allow him to attend these two book events in Toronto and has written letters to both his publisher and the Luminato festival explaining his predicament. He feels unsafe traveling with his name on the list and the experience is causing him tremendous anxiety.
Véhicule Press condemns these restrictions on Jaspreet’s freedom as a Canadian citizen to travel by air as he engages in activities as a novelist and playwright. We understand his frustration and the worry that one day he might be refused access to a flight. We are concerned that a person’s name can erroneously appear on a “no fly” list and not know who to approach to have the problem solved.
Jaspreet Singh is the author of the short story collection, Seventeen Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir (winner of the 2004 McAuslan First Book Prize) and the recently-published novel, Chef.
Please see Jaspreet Singh’s letter to Véhicule Press that follows.
For further information
Simon Dardick, co-publisher
514.812.6073 (cell, while in Toronto June 14-16)
514.844.6073 Véhicule Press
(Jaspreet Singh's letter)
Place du Parc Post Office' Montreal, QC
13 June 2008
Ever since I received the invitation, I have looked forward to the June 15th Canada Book Expo event. But, I am very sorry, I will not be able to attend.
Today when I tried to check in at the Calgary airport, I experienced difficulties.
Last month, as you know, when I flew to Ottawa and Montreal to launch my novel I experienced difficulties at the airports. I faxed the airline my letter of complaint more than a month ago, on the 9th of May, but Air Canada has not responded so far.
This is what I wrote:
Re: Travel Restrictions/Delays, Air Canada Flights
I am writing to inquire into the reasons for the difficulties I experienced on the following Air Canada flights:
26 April 2008, AC168, Calgary to Ottawa
6 May 2008, AC187, Montreal to Calgary
Prior to each flight I was prevented from accessing the electronic check facilities and was made to check in with Air Canada’s airport staff at which point I was subjected to a lengthy and detailed questioning in which my ability to travel by air was put into question. On each occasion Air Canada employees informed me that I was on a “list” or a “no fly list” but refused to give me particulars about this list. On the return flight Air Canada staff made the preposterous suggestion that I change my name or adopt a middle name.
Please provide me with the reason for the difficulties I experienced, including specifications regarding any list that my name may be on. I also ask that you provide me with a copy of all documents that relate in any way to me personally and these events.
I am a Canadian novelist and playwright with several upcoming domestic and international travel commitments. You will therefore appreciate that the requested information and material is needed urgently. I thank you for your assistance and early attention to this very important matter.
(Letter to Air Canada ends here.)
Waiting for a response from the airline I have felt now and then like Kafka’s Joseph K.
Sometimes I hear a loud echo of the airline staff’s response to my questions:
Look I am the man who wrote the novel that is available at the airport bookstore. So, why is my name on the list? What exactly is the list about? Is it me or someone else? Even if it is someone else, I feel unsafe traveling with my name on the list. Is there someone here at the airport, an ombudsperson, for instance, I would like to talk to them?
No, they said.
Why? I asked.
There is no why here, they said.
Again, I am really sorry I will not be able to attend the June 15th event.