Border questionnaire targets Muslims
A screening guide includes questions on religion, values
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.