By Barb Sweet
Singapore native visiting with Newfoundland partner worried interview notes will hurt future travels
A Singapore native travelling with her Newfoundland partner says she was questioned for nearly two and a half hours at St. John’s airport Tuesday because she is a Muslim.
Day said a supervisor at the end of session told the couple the questioning was merely to check whether they have the financial means to support Yusoff being in Canada for six months. But Day said that could have been cleared up in five minutes at the start by checking their bank accounts. But that information was never looked at and not brought up until the end, he added.
Instead, the couple maintains the work they have done with orphanages connected to Islamic charities, among others, is what got her flagged. She said she’d been questioned about her two years of work with various non-governmental agencies.
“He started to asking me about refugees and asked me ‘Are you Muslim?’” Yusoff told The Telegram.
“I say yes. … I don’t fit that racial profiling. When that question came up I thought oh my God, something is just a bit too much. At this point I have already given you everything. I have nothing to hide.”
She said she was asked if she supports any militant groups or terrorist attacks.
“I said ‘What?’ This was quite the shock,” Yusoff said.
Day said the couple works with a number of groups around the world, some Christian, some Islamic.
“So they jumped on that,” Day said.
“I said ‘I am a Muslim. If you want to ask me for the religion, it is simple. You can be a Muslim. You can be a Christian. And you can go to the mosque. You can go to the church. And you can be kissing the ground for hours on end, but if you are out there to hurt people, that means you are not a good person,’” Yusoff said. “That’s basically what my life motto is.”
Day said he’d asked for the couple not to be separated during the questioning but that wasn’t an option.
Now they are worried because of the St. John’s customs grilling that anytime they fly Yusoff will get flagged and that will hamper their future humanitarian endeavours. They said they plan to seek a lawyer to try to access the file and see what was written up as a result of the interview.
The couple had arrived in St. John’s after leaving Bangladesh and travelling through Qatar and the U.K., a trip that took 39 hours including stopovers.
The Telegram has contacted the Canada Border Services Agency and is waiting for a reply.
Update: A full day after first being contacted about the story, the Canada Border Services Agency replied with a emailed statement saying secondary inspections are a part of the normal cross-border travel process and border services officers are trained to perform these examinations in a courteous, respectful and professional manner.
The federal agency noted any traveller coming into Canada could be referred for a secondary inspection, including both visitors and residents of Canada.
“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) takes its border and national security responsibilities very seriously. All persons, including Canadian citizens, must report to the CBSA at entry and are subject to the same rules and regulations regardless of nationality, race and/or religion,” the statement said.
The agency also said that travellers can submit a written complaint to the CBSA if they feel the matter was not resolved by a manager at the time of the incident.
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