But who shall guard the border guards themselves?
How do we protect asylum-seekers entering Canada from naked islamophobia on the part of Canadian officials at our borders?
How do we protect ourselves and our country’s egalitarian values from the consequences of such human rights abuses?
Who is to protect our country’s institutions, policies and practices from rogue segments of Canadian officialdom who are seeking to enforce their own warped and biased definitions of “security risk” and of “Canadian values”?
The contents of an official RCMP questionnaire obtained recently have confirmed that all of us Canadians need to activate our radar. We need to enhance our capacity to detect and denounce any traces of officially sanctioned religious and cultural discrimination at our borders.
That questionnaire fell into the hands of a Muslim asylum-seeker who in turn handed it over to a Toronto immigration lawyer.
The document provided clear evidence of an intention to target Muslims and to extract from them answers to a number of loaded questions: their commitment to freedom of religion and to equality between men and women; their views on the use of the garments and head coverings worn by Muslim women; their willingness to accept a woman as their boss; the frequency of their prayers; and their opinions on the Taliban and the Islamic State.
There were no similar questions related to Christian and other non-Islamic religious faiths.
One can readily presume from the questionnaire that only Islamists needed to demonstrate that they were committed to Canadian values, abhorred terrorism and represented no security threat to Canadians.
It is reassuring that, once news of the existence and official use of the questionnaire surfaced in the media, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale immediately had it withdrawn.
It is also not surprising that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen declared: “That line of questioning is simply not consistent with the way we do things in Canada…It is unacceptable. It is against our values as a society to treat everyone equally.”
One wonders what to make of the suggestion that the use of the questionnaire was limited to one or two isolated rural border areas of Quebec. At the very least, the management of Quebec’s immigration, refugee and RCMP units has to be held accountable for that gross lapse into religious and cultural discrimination.
One also has to apply that same accountability standard to the federal authorities to which those three departments are answerable: they too have failed in their oversight responsibility to ensure that policies and practices throughout Canada meet the required official and constitutional standards.
Is it that the provincial authorities in Quebec are marching to a different drum, to a rhythm that is, among other things, staunchly racist and especially anti-Muslim?
The answer to that question is, regrettably, a resounding ‘yes’. The Liberal government of Quebec, headed by Premier Philippe Couillard is shamelessly pretending that the adoption of its Bill 62 is merely aimed at ensuring the province’s “religious neutrality”.
Approved just a few days ago, this clearly anti-Muslim legislation bars public workers and persons receiving a public service from wearing the niqab, burka or a face covering.
How in heaven’s name is such a draconian and far-reaching policy measure going to be enforced, to the detriment of the human rights of the persons affected, both workers and members of the public?
In answer to that ethical issue, Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée could offer nothing but a tasteless blend of piffle and drivel:
“As long as the service is being rendered, the face should be uncovered… This is a bill about le vivre ensemble [living together in harmony], it’s a bill about guidelines and clearly establishes neutrality of the state. [The legislation is necessary for] communication reasons, identification reasons and security reasons.”
It is important to note that the new law was proposed and pushed to approval by a majority Liberal government in a province in which, according to public reports, the two main opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec, hold the view that it is still too weak.
At least two Conservative luminaries at the federal level must be rejoicing at the adoption of the law: former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ms. Kellie Leitch, a former candidate to replace him at the head of the federal Conservatives.
Canada’s highest court will have to declare the law unconstitutional.
Let us see if Premier Couillard will dare to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause.
The threat here is not just aimed at Muslims and refugees.
The rights of all Canadians and the rule of law must be made to prevail