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Alarming RCMP Guide Unfairly Targets Muslim Migrants

The questions are premised upon Islamophobic diatribes that are outdated, politically incorrect and inconsistent with good government policy.

10/19/2017 15:09 EDT | Updated 10/19/2017 15:25 EDT

In the event of Donald Trump's election as U.S. president, Canadians have seen some changes here at home. One of them happens to be an influx of immigrants from our neighbours down south.

Since the start of this year, more than 12,000 men, women and children have crossed into our country, entering at Roxham Road, near the town of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, from the state of New York.

The RCMP have been monitoring this informal border crossing for quite some time. This is, of course, in the interests of national security.

However, it wasn't until recently that an RCMP interview guide was discovered. This guide had previously been kept secret from public view.

A spokesperson for the RCMP, Annie Delisle, told the Toronto Star that the guide was developed as an operational tool. She said that it was meant to help streamline the process of admitting migrants and to provide consistency to member's individual assessments.

After the information required on the guide was collected, members entered the answers into RCMP databases. This information was subsequently shared with other national security agencies, such as the Canada Border Services Agency. Remembers, this was all done in the interests of national security.

Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images
A long line of asylum seekers wait to illegally cross the Canada/U.S. border near Champlain, N.Y. on Aug. 6, 2017.

But I mean, really, aside from the shroud of mystery, the total police discretion, and the dissemination of highly private, personal information in the interests of the "greater social good," it doesn't sound that bad, does it?

Well, just hang on a minute. The content of the guide itself is actually what is most alarming.

The guide is tailored to deal with Muslim migrants specifically. The questions are premised upon Islamophobic diatribes that are outdated, politically incorrect and inconsistent with good government policy.

Among concerning questions like "what is your opinion about terrorist attacks?", the guide prompts RCMP officers to ask respondents about their religion, their prayer schedule and their opinions on women's clothing. For example, "how do you feel about women who do not wear the hijab?" and "how would you feel if your boss was a woman?"

Questions like these are sure to raise more than an eyebrow.

The problem here is not that we are screening migrants as they enter our country. The problem is that we are doing so in a racist, demeaning and ethnocentric manner that is contrary to our identity as Canadians.

After all, if having backward, antiquated views on women in the workplace is a reason to wind up on a national security watch list, then I happen to know a whole number of people whose names should be added — and not a single one identifies as Muslim.

The problem here is not that we are screening migrants as they enter our country. The problem is that we are doing so in a racist, demeaning and ethnocentric manner that is contrary to our identity as Canadians.

In this country, our identity is hinged on our diversity. We welcome differences between our citizens and celebrate them as an integral part of our community. Our federal government and political leaders have expressed this sentiment over and over again. It is something that we take distinct pride in.

It is also a way that we have traditionally distinguished ourselves from our American neighbours. We are a mosaic, rather than a melting pot. This has become particularly important as the U.S. enters into a political dark age of travel bans and wall-building.

Christinne Muschi/Reuters
A barricade blocks the dead end road where Royal Canadian Mounted Police have set up a tent and buses for incoming refugees crossing the US-Canada border at Roxham Road in Hemmingford, Que., Aug. 3, 2017.

The news of this guide is also in stark contract to recent poll results, released last week, which indicate that the vast majority of Canadians would not support an American-style "me-first" approach to foreign policy.

The good news is that officials were quick to act once news of this inappropriate guide broke. It was immediately pulled from use.

But the next big question is how we move forward.

It goes without saying that better oversight is required in order to make sure that these types of things do not happen again in the future.

There are also concerns about what will be done with the information that has already been collected. It seems logical to assume that inappropriate information, collected through inappropriate means, should be properly and promptly destroyed. The timeline on whether this will happen, and how exactly it will unfold, however, has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, the RCMP would be bet to avoid topics of politics and religion and instead focus on what they are best at — dealing with actual threats to our security and safety.

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