CBSA: one in four officers witnessed discrimination by co-workers


A quarter of frontline workers surveyed at the Canada Border Agency said they had directly witnessed a colleague discriminating against a traveler in the previous two years.

Of these respondents, 71% suggested that the discrimination was based, in whole or in part, on the travelers’ race, and just over three-quarters cited their national or ethnic origin.

The figures are from a survey conducted as part of an internal evaluation of the Canada Border Services Agency that looked at the agency’s treatment of travellers, using a lens of gender, race, origin, religion, age and mental or physical disability, and the interaction between these factors.

The agency recently posted the results of the assessment, which focused on people arriving in Canada by air, on its website.

As part of the research, 922 border services officers and superintendents were interviewed from March 2 to March 22, 2020.

Of those who said they had seen a colleague discriminating, just over two in five did not report what they observed. Some mentioned fear of reprisals or simply feeling uncomfortable.

Sixteen percent of those who witnessed discrimination reported what they saw. However, some of these respondents indicated that they had encountered difficulties in doing so or that their reports had not been taken seriously or had not been acted upon, the evaluation report said.

The CBSA’s traveler processing activities do not intentionally target people based on perceptions about their race or ethnicity, the report said. The agency uses a combination of information sources, such as global trends and reports, in developing scenarios, which are systematically screened for human rights and other considerations.

“However, some practices can have unintended consequences that result in an overrepresentation of racialized communities in the context of law enforcement,” the report states.

For example, when targeting rates are higher for certain countries of origin, there could be unintended consequences for travelers from specific racial or ethnic groups when those groups represent a greater proportion of inbound travelers from those countries. , he adds.

Reviewers found that the agency could only perform “very limited analysis” based on travelers’ racial or ethnic identity when using operational data.

“If faced with public complaints or allegations of racial discrimination, the agency cannot prove or disprove with its data whether its policies or practices discriminate against travelers, due to the complexity of this question. If the agency attempts this type of analysis in the future, it will need to consider and develop new approaches to data collection, storage and analysis.”

The CBSA’s People Processing Manual provides staff with guidance regarding cultural awareness of a traveller, the prohibition of racial profiling and services provided to persons with disabilities.

A large majority of survey respondents said they agreed or somewhat agreed that to do their job effectively, they need to acknowledge their personal and implicit biases.

The evaluation makes several recommendations, including a call for the development and implementation of a plan to improve awareness and reporting of traveler abuse and discrimination witnessed by border agency staff , without fear of reprisals.

In a response attached to the assessment report, the border agency agreed to design such a plan and establish a timetable for implementing the changes this year.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 16, 2022.