Moun­ties re­work­ing ‘racist, pro­fil­ing’ ques­tion­naire

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

OTTAWA — The emer­gence of an RCMP ques­tion­naire tar­get­ing Mus­lim asy­lum seek­ers in Quebec prompted fresh ac­cu­sa­tions Thurs­day that the Lib­eral govern­ment mis­man­aged this past sum­mer’s mas­sive flow of mi­grants from the United States.

The doc­u­ment was used at the Quebec border cross­ing that saw an in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers from the U.S.

Among other things, it asked opin­ions about re­li­gious prac­tice, head cov­er­ings as­so­ci­ated with Mus­lim women, and ter­ror­ist groups with mainly Mus­lim mem­bers.

Toronto im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Clifford McCarten ob­tained a copy of the doc­u­ment from a client seek­ing refugee sta­tus, who had been given the doc­u­ment by mis­take.

“He was shocked by the ques­tions,” said McCarten, who pro­vided a copy to The Cana­dian Press.

The man was orig­i­nally from a Mus­lim coun­try, he added.

“Canada is a very lib­eral coun­try that be­lieves in free­dom of re­li­gious prac­tice and equal­ity between men and women. What is your opin­ion of this sub­ject? How would you feel if your boss was a wo­man? How do you feel about women who do not wear the hi­jab?,” says the ques­tion­naire.

A spokesman for Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said the govern­ment found out about the doc­u­ment Tues­day from a “stake­holder” who takes an in­ter­est in the work of the depart­ment.

Pub­lic Safety spokesman Scott Bard­s­ley said the depart­ment was im­me­di­ately con­cerned and the doc­u­ment is no longer be­ing used by the RCMP.

“Some of the ques­tions were in­ap­pro­pri­ate and in­con­sis­tent with govern­ment pol­icy,” Bard­s­ley said in an emailed state­ment.

Bard­s­ley said the doc­u­ment was only used “lo­cally,” but would not say whether there would be reper­cus­sions for any of the Moun­ties in­volved in its cre­ation.

In a writ­ten state­ment, the RCMP said the “in­ter­view guide” was used by its Quebec C Di­vi­sion and “has been re­vised to bet­ter eval­u­ate in­di­vid­u­als com­ing into the coun­try whose ori­gin is un­known, while be­ing re­spect­ful of their sit­u­a­tions.”

McCarten said the ex­is­tence of the doc­u­ment raises ques­tions about the govern­ment’s com­pe­tence in man­ag­ing the sud­den surge of asy­lum seek­ers.

“If, in fact, this was a lo­cal de­tach­ment mak­ing this de­ci­sion — which I find a bit hard to be­lieve — then it’s deeply con­cern­ing one of the most, if not the most prob­lem­atic cri­sis spot in Cana­dian im­mi­gra­tion and refugee pol­icy right now... doesn’t have a fed­eral strat­egy for how screen­ing is hap­pen­ing.”

Matthew Dubé, the NDP pub­lic safety critic, said the ques­tion­naire raises “red flags” about whether the RCMP is en­gaged in wide­spread racial pro­fil­ing, and he called on Goodale to launch a broad in­quiry to find out.

He said he has se­ri­ous con­cerns that Goodale didn’t know about the ques­tion­naire un­til Tues­day.

“I have no idea how such a racist, pro­fil­ing ques­tion­naire could ever be part of an op­er­a­tional pro­ce­dure.”

Jenny Kwan, the NDP im­mi­gra­tion critic, said the govern­ment needs to pro­vide more an­swers on how the doc­u­ment was used.

“The num­ber of times some­one prays should have no bear­ing on their refugee sta­tus. That is not who we are,” she said.

Other ques­tions asked ap­pli­cants to spec­ify their re­li­gion and “how of­ten” they prac­tice their re­li­gion.

McCarten said the RCMP needs to con­duct se­cu­rity screen­ing, but the ques­tions be­ing asked don’t cover all po­ten­tial threats to Canada.

“It ap­pears to in­struct RCMP of­fi­cers to be ask­ing ques­tions to the ex­clu­sion of other types of con­cerns, specif­i­cally the right-wing, white su­prem­a­cist vi­o­lence hap­pen­ing in the U.S. and that we have a his­tory of in Canada,” he said.

“It asks ques­tions that are dis­crim­i­na­tory, that re­flect a kind of in­sti­tu­tional bias and an in­sti­tu­tional ig­no­rance of the RCMP of the na­ture of risk.”

He said ask­ing a Mus­lim their opin­ion of head cov­er­ings is “ab­surd” and akin to “ask­ing a Jewish per­son what their opin­ions are about men who don’t wear the yarmulke.”

Con­ser­va­tive pub­lic safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus said the party sup­ports ef­forts to keep Cana­di­ans safe, but is “united against un­just dis­crim­i­na­tion to­wards any­one be­cause of their faith.”

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