KELOWNA – A tourist from New Zealand wasn’t allowed to board her flight at Kelowna International Airport last weekend, because her driver’s licence doesn't list her gender.
Sharon Duley and her husband visit the Okanagan regularly from their home country of New Zealand. They have a place at Silver Star Mountain Resort and were on their last days of a ski vacation.
Her husband had left for Vancouver a few days earlier, taking her passport with him. Duley checked the WestJet website and found that valid ID is all that is required for a flight within Canada.
“I get to the gate, and the woman checks (my driver’s licence). She checks the picture and looks at my face… she looks at the name on the card and the name on the ticket. Then she turns it over and says she can’t accept this. It doesn’t say you are a female on it.”
Duley was shocked. She had already cleared security and her bags were on the plane. A stranger, Kelowna realtor Blake Roberts, tried to help.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he says. “We were sitting, waiting for boarding, and we saw a lady sitting across from us, she was crying. I thought somebody died or something. Then I saw a WestJet rep talking to her.”
A spokesperson for WestJet says Transport Canada requires attendants check gender, among other things, immediately prior to boarding a plane.
“I checked on the website, it said what I needed was a valid government-issued photo ID, which I had. Since the incident I have dug into the bowels of the website and you do need gender. We haven’t had that on our (licences) for a long time.”
She says a baggage handler told her the same thing happened to an Australian tourist the week before.
“They are going by the letter of the law, but I think the law is wrong,” she says. “I came into Canada legally on my passport, nowhere does it say I need my passport to travel within Canada.”
Fortunately, Duley was able to get her luggage off the plane and she took a cab to the Greyhound station in Kelowna.
“We love the country,” she says. “I was distraught, partly because I couldn’t say goodbye to a friend, but a whole day had been screwed. It’s no way to treat a tourist.”
Transport Canada has not responded to emails asking for comment.
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