One in four customs officers witnesses discriminatory acts by colleagues

One out of four customs officers witnesses discriminatory acts by colleagues

If a quarter of border services officers in the country have witnessed acts of discrimination from a colleague, only 16% of them say they have spoken out or reported the injustice, reveals a survey.

A quarter of Canada's border services officers say they have directly witnessed acts of discrimination by co-workers against travelers in the past two years alone.

Among respondents, 71% said discrimination was based in whole or in part on travellers' race, and just over 75% cite nationality or ethnicity.

This data was drawn from a survey conducted as part of an internal evaluation of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). This analysis looked at how travelers were treated by border officials from the perspective of gender, race, ethnicity, religious belief, age and physical disabilities or intellectual, as well as the interactions between all these factors.

The CBSA recently made public on its web portal the results of this assessment, which focuses primarily on travelers arriving in the country by air.

As part of this research, 922 officers and supervisors were interviewed between March 2 and March 22, 2020.

Among respondents who admitted to seeing co-workers discriminate, just over two in five officers never reported the incident. Some justified their silence by fear of reprisals or simply by a feeling of discomfort.

Only 16% of officers who witnessed discrimination reported what they saw. Additionally, some of them revealed that they encountered obstacles while trying to report the injustice. Others said they were not taken seriously or that no action was taken after they were reported, the report reads.

Traveler screening activities do not intentionally target people because of perceptions about their race or ethnicity, the report argues. The agency uses a combination of information sources, such as global trends and various reports, in developing scenarios that are continually revised for human rights and other considerations.

< p class="e-p">The CBSA nevertheless recognizes that certain practices can have unintended consequences leading to an overrepresentation of racialized communities in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

Furthermore, the authors of the report deplore that very little data is available to analyze the behavior of CBSA officers according to the racial or ethnic particularities of travellers.

According to the authors, if complaints were to be filed in relation to a case of racial discrimination, the agency would be unable to demonstrate whether or not its practices are discriminatory. Changes are needed in data collection practices as well as processing and archiving.

A strong majority of survey respondents agreed with having to recognize their personal biases and unconscious biases in order to do their job well.

In conclusion, the CBSA's internal evaluation makes several recommendations , including a call for an effective process to report instances of discrimination against travelers without fear of reprisal for officers.

In an included response in the report, the CBSA agreed and committed to creating this mechanism as early as this year.

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