RCMP officers screened border crossers on religion and values
By Michelle Shephard
Toronto Star | October 11, 2017
RCMP officers have been screening Muslim refugee claimants entering from the U.S. at Quebec’s Roxham Rd. 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 the Islamic State, a questionnaire obtained by the Star 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 Rd., 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 — seemingly by mistake — that there was proof of the practice.
RCMP spokesperson Annie Delisle told the Star Wednesday that these questions were part of an “interview guide” that was used by officers in Quebec.
“Due to the high volume of irregular migrants in Quebec, an interview guide was developed as an operation tool to streamline processing and provide consistency in the RCMP’s preliminary risk assessments,” Delisle wrote in an email to the Star.
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, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, told the Star Wednesday afternoon that the RCMP has suspended use of “that version” of the guide.
“The minute we became aware of the interview guide, we were immediately concerned and contacted the RCMP,” Bardsley wrote. “Some of the questions were inappropriate and inconsistent with government policy.”
But civil rights advocates, refugee lawyers and Muslim leaders said the document highlights the larger problem that Canada’s security services disproportionately target Muslims.
“Getting rid of the evidence doesn’t get rid of the problem,” said Faisal Bhabha, the legal adviser for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “The document itself isn’t the problem. The problem is the mindset. It’s not an anomaly.”