The Canada Border Services Agency faced more than 100 founded complaints from travellers last year, including allegations of racism and rudeness — and one instance of a woman alleging a border officer yelled at her while she was in medical distress.
Data provided to The Canadian Press through access to information legislation says that in 2017-18 these were among the 105 “founded” cases of complaints of officer misconduct — about 12 per cent of 875 misconduct complaints filed in that time.
The total number of complaints through the CBSA’s online “Compliments, Comments and Complaints” website remains a tiny fraction of the 95 million travellers seen by officers in the past year.
Nonetheless, civil liberties groups say the latest collection of incidents shows that Canada needs an independent complaints agency similar to those used to oversee police forces that can produce public reports and make binding recommendations to the agency.
As it stands, the definition of “founded” provided by the agency says that “aspects in the allegations made in the complaint were valid.”
Tim McSorley, the national co-ordinator of the Toronto-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, says the definition is far too vague to help lead to changes within the agency’s culture or for the public to be properly informed.
Nonetheless, he says the limited information shows cause for concern, particularly the allegations of racism, questioning of travellers’ nationality, and name calling.
“It shows that the majority of complaints are around respect or disrespect for travellers. … For us, in particular, the incidents of racism (from border officers) are something in our work we’ve heard more about whether from Canadian citizens, or travellers from abroad,” he said during an interview.
The descriptions of the allegations in the access documents are brief.
On Nov. 6 last year, one of the reports says, a “client states the border service officer was rude and yelled at her until she passed out.”