Elizabeth Strecker’s phone has been ringing steadily ever since the Abbotsford grandmother made headlines as the victim of “humiliating” treatment at the hands of airport screeners in Calgary.
Many of the calls – 16 to 18, she guesses – are from people across Canada who have had similar experiences to hers, who wanted to offer her their condolences.
Strecker was flying home to Abbotsford earlier this month, and at the Calgary International Airport, she was reduced to tears by the security screeners.
They asked if she was carrying any liquids or gels, to which she incorrectly answered ‘no,’ not disclosing the gel-filled prosthesis that the breast cancer survivor wears after undergoing a mastectomy.
Strecker had to undergo a full body scan, ordered to stand with her legs in a wide stance, with her arms up.
She told screeners she could not raise her disabled left arm, but the security personnel were insistent. She pulled her left arm up with her right, but the screeners said that was not allowed.
“I felt like a dog who couldn’t follow orders.”
In an awkward body position, she stumbled.
“I am 82. My balance is maybe not like it used to be,” she said. “And then they look at you like you’re drunk.”
She was patted down, and a screener felt the prosthesis.
“I was humiliated.”
Strecker is still emotional as she recalls the ordeal. She said she might never fly again, but she wants to highlight what she sees as a problem.
Phone calls have come from Toronto, Winnipeg, Prince George and across Canada, as people share similar stories with Strecker.
“Not many people want to go public, because it is embarrassing,” she said. “These are people who were terribly, terribly humiliated.”
One woman from Vancouver urged her to bring a lawsuit, saying that is the only way to effect change. However, Strecker, a widow on a fixed income, is not interested in suing.
“Change, that’s all I want,” she said, adding that the security screeners need to be better trained in personal relations.
One of the phone calls she received was from the office of MP Ed Fast, and she was to meet with him on Monday afternoon.
Another call was from a representative of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, who left a message apologizing for the incident.
The security agency had about 1,500 complaints from among 51 million Canadian travellers last year. CATSA has reviewed video footage of the screening process with Strecker, and ordered an investigation. It should be completed in about a month.
– With files from CTV British Columbia