Questionnaire targeting Muslims ‘unacceptable’ -Refugee minister

Ahmed Hussen

VANCOUVER – Canada’s immigration minister is condemning an RCMP questionnaire that targets Muslim asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States into Quebec.

Speaking in Vancouver on Friday, Ahmed Hussen described the Mounties’ interview guide as unacceptable, saying it is incompatible with the government’s anti-discrimination policy.

Among other things, the document directed applicants to specify their religion and “how often” they practice it, and asked opinions about head coverings associated with Muslim women and terrorist groups with mainly Muslim members.

“That line of questioning is simply not consistent with the way we do things in Canada,” Hussen said.

“It is unacceptable. It is against our values as a society to treat everyone equally.”

The questionnaire was used at a Quebec border crossing that saw thousands of asylum seekers enter from the U.S. over the summer.

Hussen said he applauded Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s decision to put a stop to the practice as soon as he found out about it.

A spokesman for Public Safety Canada said Thursday the questionnaire was only used “locally”

Toronto immigration lawyer Clifford McCarten said he obtained a copy of the document from a client seeking refugee status, who had been given the three-page, 41-question document by mistake.

McCarten said he was shocked by the questions.

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

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

Asked about the document, an RCMP spokeswoman said it had been revised.

Hussen was in Vancouver to discuss changes to the Citizenship Act that came into effect last week that reduce the residency and language requirements for people applying to become Canadians.

As of Wednesday last week, permanent residents only need to be in Canada for three of the previous five years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship, with no minimum days per year. That compares with the previous law requiring that four of the past six years are spent in Canada, with a minimum of 183 days in each of those four years.