Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2017 (1033 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A questionnaire used by Quebec RCMP targeting Muslim asylum seekers crossing into Canada was not used by Mounties in Manitoba, police say.
"This was a local initiative in C Division (Quebec) and was not sanctioned by RCMP national headquarters and was not a national standard operating procedure," RCMP media relations in Ottawa said Friday, issuing a statement rather than responding to specific questions.
The Quebec RCMP questionnaire asked asylum seekers, among other things, which religion they practise, how many times a day they pray and for their opinion of women not wearing Muslim head scarves or hijabs.
"This is the first I’ve ever heard about this," said Winnipeg immigration lawyer Bashir Khan, who has represented several of the 813 asylum seekers who entered Manitoba irregularly this year.
None of his clients who walked across the border into Canada and were intercepted by the RCMP ever mentioned being grilled about their faith, Khan said.
The RCMP said the guide used in Quebec has been revised to remove three questions, but wouldn’t specify which three.
The document only came to light after it was given by mistake to a refugee claimant who provided it to his lawyer.
Quebec has been dealing with a surge in the number of asylum seekers crossing from the U.S. — from 245 in January up to 5,530 in August.
The questionnaire Quebec Mounties used "was intended to streamline processing and provide consistency in preliminary risk assessments," the police force’s national headquarters said Friday.
"The RCMP is committed to protecting the safety of Canadians and keeping our borders secure," the RCMP said.
"When individuals are intercepted crossing the border illegally, their intentions are not known. Officers use the tools at their disposal to confirm the identity of the individuals, and to assess their activities and intentions while respecting the human rights of the individual.
"At the same time, people seeking asylum in Canada must be treated with compassion and afforded due process under the law."
A new document for questioning and screening refugee claimants is being drafted by RCMP headquarters, and will be shared across the country and replace the revised questionnaire used in Quebec.
"This new guide will adhere to the RCMP’s bias-free policing policy, which is based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the RCMP Act, and the RCMP’s mission, vision and values," the Mounties said.
"The RCMP does not target any individual or group based solely on their racial, gender, ethnic or religious background, and focuses on observed or suspected criminality and behaviours."
Headquarters said it’s conducting a thorough review to determine what data targeting Muslims was gathered and possibly stored by the Quebec RCMP and what to do with it.
The RCMP said it wouldn’t provide further comment until the review is finished.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.