Religious travellers screened from female border guards at Toronto airport

Female customs officer feels accommodation of Hindu priests travelling to Canada given priority over her own rights

A female border guard has come forward with a complaint that Hindu priests were granted a request to avoid being screened by female guards at Canada’s largest airport.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer told CBC News that on July 28, a group of sadhus, or Hindu priests, arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The priests, whose beliefs require them to avoid any contact with women, requested that they only be screened by male CBSA officers — and the CBSA agreed.

The officer reported that officers screening international passengers after they landed were told they shouldn’t switch work stations with other officers unless they asked a supervisor, to ensure the arriving sadhus — who were processed separately — would not encounter women as they passed through customs.

The officer said she and her co-workers were upset the CBSA allowed the request and it was “offensive to me as a woman.” However, they were afraid to complain to the CBSA and she wanted her identity to remain a secret, as the CBSA prohibited officers from speaking to the media without approval.

“Everybody is upset that this request was even entertained by the CBSA,” the officer told CBC News. “People are saying ‘What is next? If white supremacists come through, do we move all non-white officers from the line?’”

The CBSA officers’ union president Mark Weber told CBC News he had received complaints from many union members and the union was considering filing a human rights complaint.

A spokesperson for federal public safety minister Steven Blaney — the minister responsible for the CBSA — told CBC News “we expect the CBSA to apply the same rules to all persons seeking entry to Canada” and the incident would be investigated.

Latest stories