Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak announced Friday he has filed a human rights complaint against the national airport authority after he says airport security mishandled sacred objects in his carry-on luggage Feb. 8.

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Grand Chief Derek Nepinak says security staff at the Ottawa airport lacked cultural awareness around sacred pipes used in indigenous ceremonies. (The Canadian Press)

In early February, The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) said they would investigate claims from Nepinak that security removed a sacred bundle of ceremonial tobacco and a pipe from his bags during the carry-on screen process.

Nepinak and the AMC released a statement Friday saying it had filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"I have carried my pipe bundle with me around the world to bring ceremony and hope to Indigenous communities in other continents. The pipe is used in ceremonies that have been practiced by our people for countless generations," the statement reads. 

"I have never been treated as disrespectfully as I was treated in Ottawa on Feb. 8. Even though I was very clear in informing security staff that I was travelling with my sacred pipe bundle and describing the contents, which they could clearly see it as it passed through their X-ray machines, they insisted on unpacking my bundle without regard to the spiritual protocols of our people and without my consent. This was a desecration of my person which cannot go unchecked."

Nepinak said he recognizes the need for enhanced security measures at airports, but added ceremonial indigenous objects "should be treated with dignity and respect."