Border ques­tion­naire tar­gets Mus­lims

A screen­ing guide in­cludes ques­tions on re­li­gion, val­ues

StarMetro Edmonton - - Canada -

RCMP of­fi­cers have been screen­ing Mus­lim refugee claimants en­ter­ing from the U.S. at Que­bec’s Rox­ham Road cross­ing, ask­ing how they feel about women who do not wear the hi­jab, how many times they pray, and their opin­ion about the Tal­iban and Daesh, a ques­tion­naire ob­tained by Torstar shows.

The 41 ques­tions ap­pear to specif­i­cally tar­get Mus­lims, as no other re­li­gious prac­tices are men­tioned, nor ter­ror­ist groups with non-Mus­lim mem­bers.

Refugee lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the more than 12,000 men, women and chil­dren who have crossed from New York this year at the in­for­mal cross­ing on Rox­ham Road, near the Que­bec town of Saint-Bernard-de-La­colle, have heard sto­ries of pro­fil­ing, but it wasn’t un­til a client of Toronto lawyer Clif­ford McCarten was given his own ques­tion­naire last month that there was proof of the prac­tice.

RCMP spokesper­son An­nie Delisle said that th­ese ques­tions were part of an “in­ter­view guide” that was used by of­fi­cers in Que­bec.

An­swers from the ques­tion­naire were en­tered into RCMP data­bases, Delisle wrote. That in­for­ma­tion could then be shared with the Canada Border Ser­vices Agency or other se­cu­rity part­ners “in ac­cor­dance with Cana­dian leg­is­la­tion,” she wrote.

Scott Bard­s­ley, spokesman for Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale, said Wed­nes­day after­noon that the RCMP has sus­pended use of “that ver­sion” of the guide.

But civil rights ad­vo­cates, refugee lawyers and Mus­lim lead­ers said the doc­u­ment high­lights the larger prob­lem that Canada’s se­cu­rity ser­vices dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­get Mus­lims.

The refugee claimant rep­re­sented by McCarten, who is flee­ing a Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try, said he was shocked by the ques­tions and feared how in­for­ma­tion he gave — such as the fact that his wife wears a hi­jab — could be used against him.

Torstar has agreed to pro­tect his iden­tity.

Ques­tion 31 on the form, typed on RCMP let­ter­head in both English and French reads: “Canada is a very lib­eral coun­try that be­lieves in free­dom of re­li­gious prac­tice and equal­ity be­tween men and women. What is your opin­ion on this sub­ject? How would you feel if your boss was a woman?”

“I never ex­pected this in Canada,” said the mid­dle-aged teacher, whose fam­ily still lives in his birth coun­try. “My coun­try has a lot of prob­lems about hu­man rights and democ­racy but th­ese ques­tions are not the kind of ques­tions I’d be asked even in my coun­try.”

Mitchell Gold­berg, head of the na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion of refugee lawyers, noted the sim­i­lar­ity be­tween the RCMP’s ques­tion­naire and the widely lam­pooned cam­paign pledge by Con­ser­va­tive MP and for­mer lead­er­ship can­di­date Kel­lie Leitch to screen im­mi­grants for “Cana­dian val­ues.”

“The job of the RCMP is to pro­tect na­tional se­cu­rity, not to is­sue a value test and that’s all I can call this,” said Gold­berg.


An RCMP of­fi­cer frisks a woman in Saint-Bernard-de-La­colle, Que­bec, in Au­gust.

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