First Nations artists face surrendering beads at airport security due to carry-on limits

·3 min read
A full-time Cree bead artist was frustrated that she had to surrender beads from her carry-on at security at the Edmonton International Airport. (Submitted by Jess Sanderson-Barry - image credit)
A full-time Cree bead artist was frustrated that she had to surrender beads from her carry-on at security at the Edmonton International Airport. (Submitted by Jess Sanderson-Barry - image credit)

A Cree bead artist flying between Alberta and Quebec was disappointed recently when she had to choose what beads to leave behind at airport security.

Jessica Sanderson-Barry, a member of the Chakastaypasin Band who lives in Edmonton, was travelling to Kitigan Zibi in Quebec for a hide camp. She was going to be using her beads for some special projects.

She was disheartened when she had to leave a few vials of her beads at security, as only a certain amount is allowed in carry-on luggage, which she was unaware of at the time.

"I was just, like, devastated," said Sanderson-Barry.

"I need these for specific projects, you know. Beading is ceremony for me, and I felt like it was just really abrupt."

She said she had to decide in a matter of minutes what beads to keep, and what beads to leave behind.

"I was sitting there, questioning myself, 'Which ones do I really need on this trip and which ones do I have to part with?' And I think that was really difficult for me, 'cause I had to do this within a couple minutes because our flight was going to board," Sanderson-Barry said.

Submitted by Jess Sanderson-Barry
Submitted by Jess Sanderson-Barry

She said she ended up choosing less expensive vials of beads to leave behind, though she was lucky to be travelling with a friend who was able to carry some for her. She said she had to haggle to keep some of the smaller vials, as security staff did not weigh any of her items, which she thinks is unfair.

Sanderson-Barry said she was offered a chance to have someone pick up the beads for her, but she had no time to arrange for that before needing to get on the flight.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) said in an email to CBC News that the permitted volume of craft beads in carry-on baggage is 350 ml (the size of a soda can). They are allowed in checked baggage over the 350 ml limit.

CATSA said Transport Canada changes to the Prohibited Items List in November 2017 included prohibiting certain powders and granular material with a combined volume of 350 ml in carry-on.

CATSA said passengers at security screening with a non-permitted item can return to check-in and put it in checked baggage, leave the item with someone who is not going through the screening checkpoint or surrender it at the checkpoint.

Should a passenger choose to surrender an item at the checkpoint, the item is disposed of according to the procedures at the airport in question, CATSA said.

Another artist had to surrender beads

Sanderson-Barry is not the only bead artist to have to give up beads at the Edmonton airport recently.

Alyssa Ross, a Gwich'in bead artist from Inuvik, N.W.T, was travelling from Edmonton to Winnipeg on April 28. She had packed specific beads from India, as well as vintage beads from the 1900s in her carry-on.

Submitted by Alyssa Ross
Submitted by Alyssa Ross

She said it was the first time she found the amount of beads was an issue when flying, and that on a previous flight in November of last year she was able to bring over the 350 ml limit with no concern.

"I've travelled before with a suitcase, a carry-on suitcase, like filled with beads — that was all that was in there — and it was never an issue before," she said.

Because she was travelling alone, Ross had no one to give her excess beads to. She said carry-on is a better option for delicate glass beads that could potentially be broken when put in checked baggage.

"I think it's good to have some awareness ... about artists who do travel with their supplies," said Ross.

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