Manitoba

Manitoba teen — initially barred — now cleared to meet Barack Obama

A 17-year-old Manitoba boy who was barred from a paid meet-and-greet with former U.S. president Barack Obama, who stops in Winnipeg next week, is now cleared to attend.

Aaron Dyck, 17, was flagged by the event's security and told he could not meet former U.S. president

Former U.S. president Barack Obama will be in Winnipeg on March 4. (Ashlee Rezin/Associated Press)

A 17-year-old Manitoba boy who was barred from a paid meet-and-greet with former U.S. president Barack Obama, who stops in Winnipeg next week, is now cleared to attend.

"It was a case of mistaken identity," said Lisa Dyck, the boy's mother.

"Aaron has been cleared to do the meet and greet with the president," she told CBC News Friday afternoon.

Dyck received a call from the event organizers a couple of days ago, advising her "Your son can't go because he's been flagged by security," she said.

"I said, 'Excuse me? Why?' And they said 'We don't know.' They're not giving us further details," Dyck said.

"I was literally speechless. I talk a lot, I'm usually not speechless. I don't know what to say."

Dyck and her son, Aaron, are going to the event, A Conversation with President Barack Obama, at Bell MTS Place on Monday, and will now also be able to attend the meet-and-greet afterward, for which she has already purchased tickets.

Dyck said Aaron was devastated and confused after being told he could not go to the meet-and-greet portion, so they asked the Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the event, to take a second look.

"I'm elated, I'm completely happy with that and feeling relieved," said Dyck after hearing her son will be allowed to attend.

The Chamber was given Aaron's passport, Social Insurance Number and birth certificate in hopes of clearing up any misunderstanding about her son's identity.

"We understand mistakes happen, and mistaken identity at that level could be very easily done," she said.

"It's frustrating, but we don't hold any ill feelings towards anybody at this point."

'How can you veto somebody with just a name?'

Dyck said she understands that many people could have duplicate names and birth dates but says it was important for her to ask security to take a closer look.

"We shouldn't just be so quick to give up our rights," she said.

"That's what I'm trying to teach my kids here… I need to teach my kids to stand up for themselves and ask the question," Dyck said.

Aaron Dyck, left, had initially been flagged and told he couldn't attend a meet-and-greet with former U.S. president Barack Obama. His mom, Lisa, right, asked security to do a second background check which cleared him Friday. (Submitted by Lisa Dyck)

The family has gone though difficult times in the past year, Dyck said, and the event was really important to them.

The Dycks operate a dairy farm northeast of Winnipeg, between Beausejour and Anola, where they created Cornell Creme. The hand-crafted ice cream was produced from 2012 until rising costs shuttered the business in 2018.

Dyck said she didn't think anything in Aaron's social media feeds would raise a red flag, and questioned how he could be banned based just on his name.

"How can you veto somebody with just a name?" Dyck said earlier. "Nothing's making sense."

Security handled by Secret Service

The RCMP said any security clearance for the event is handled through the U.S. Secret Service.

"Our role is to provide additional on-site security from the time of [Obama's] arrival to the time of his departure," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre said.

"Those wishing to meet the former president are listed by the organizers of this event and given to his Secret Service detail in order to conduct security screening."

I was literally speechless. I talk a lot, I'm usually not speechless. I don't know what to say.- Lisa Dyck

​​Dyck bought a pair of the highly sought-after and costly tickets to the meet-and-greet for herself and her husband back in January.

"They're expensive. They're very, very expensive tickets. But I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Dyck said. "This was a huge, huge deal for us. This was going to be one of those wow moments."

They were required to register by giving their full names, cellphone numbers and email addresses as part of the security checks.

Now, it turns out, her husband can't get away from the family farm to attend. So Aaron asked to go, saying Obama has been a hero to him.

Dyck changed the registration name to Aaron's but then she got the call from the Chamber that told Dyck word of Aaron's ban came from the tour's promoter.

"It was [a] really shocking thing to hear that would be happening to me," Aaron said.

Dyck said she knows the Secret Service have a job to do and understands the screening process is likely difficult and time consuming.

"We're extremely pleased with the outcome," she said.

"We know this is a privilege, we don't take anything for granted."

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