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Updated: Fri, 08 Aug 2014 22:33:13 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

CBSA has let religious travellers avoid female guards in the past



CBSA has let religious travellers avoid female guards in the past

A former Canada Border Services Agency employee says a recent incident at Toronto's Pearson International Airport where religious travellers were allowed to avoid female border agents was not an isolated case.

In a CBC exclusive Thursday, a CBSA officer said that border agency management allowed a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards on July 28 to comply with their religious beliefs.

On Friday, another source came forward to confirm similar events.

A retired CBSA officer, who worked for the agency for more than 30 years, spoke to CBC’s Nil Koksal Friday under the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from her former employer.

She said five years ago she and a female colleague were pulled off the floor at Pearson's arrivals gate and put on secondary duties to accommodate a group of men who did not want to be processed by women.

“We were told by our superintendent to stay in that area until a certain delegation had cleared customs, because they didn’t want to have interaction with female officers,” she said. The former agent could not confirm the identity or affiliation of the group, only that they wore orange robes.

“I felt kind of betrayed by my country, for lack of a better word, they didn't step up to the plate and didn't back us when we needed to be backed.”

The new source spoke out following a huge reaction to Thursday’s story about the CBSA accommodating such requests.

"People are saying 'What is next? If white supremacists come through, do we move all non-white officers from the line?'" said the first border guard who complained to CBC News.

The officer said granting such a request could undermine border guards' efforts to prevent criminals, terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country.

"The nature of the request is offensive to me as a woman," she said. "You are a guest in my country. What do you mean you don't want to deal with me because I'm a woman? We are considered law enforcement officers. I can't imagine any police force entertaining something like that."

NDP MP and defence critic Jack Harris said that the agency should be “open and frank” about their rationale behind this.

“I think if they are accommodating a particular situation, they should say they are doing so, and say why,” Harris said.  

The CBSA has not said anything about the accommodation of religious requests, stating that the agency does not comment on individual passengers. 

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