The Canada Border Service Agency is attempting to delve deep into the personal lives of its employees — all in the name of security, it says.
The agency wants to know about the marital status, drinking, and internet habits of its employees as part of a new "integrity questionnaire."
The union representing Canadian customs and border agents calls the new voluntary survey "ridiculous."
The CBSA survey asks 57 questions of its employees. Some of them the union considers "intrusive."
Among the questions being asked:
How much alcohol do you consume in a week?
Have you ever solicited the services of a prostitute?
Do you or your spouse/common law partner or cohabiter gamble (including lottery, casinos, online gaming, scratch tickets, etc.)?
Have you ever committed an act of domestic abuse, including the use of, or the threat of use of, violence against your spouse, partner, parents, children, siblings, pets, etc.?
The Canadian Human Rights Commission guide to screening and selection in employment says to avoid, for example, asking whether the applicant drinks or uses drugs and whether the applicant is receiving counselling or therapy.
The survey also asks about marital status. The Canadian Human Rights Act entitles "all individuals to equal employment opportunities without regard to … family or marital status, sex …."
Jason McMichael is a vice president with the Customs and Immigration Union, representing workers at the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in Windsor, Ont., and officers in Sarnia.
"The questions are exceptionally intrusive," McMichael said. "We feel like they certainly go beyond anything that would be necessary for the CBSA to be aware of about us. And to be quite honest, some of the questions are to the point of being ridiculous."
McMichael said he won't be filling out the questionnaire. He said the union will suggest all employees follow his example.
When asked what prompted management to pose such questions, McMichael wasn't sure.
"There are always going to be occasional blips on the radar which could raise eyebrows," he said.
According to the CBSA website the questionnaire was needed to ensure security.
"After extensive research and analysis of the security screening process of law enforcement organizations, it was decided that the integrity questionnaire is required to ensure a more thorough security screening assessment," the website reads. "The intent of the Integrity Questionnaire is to measure the applicant's honesty, trustworthiness, integrity and reliability ..."
Although the questionnaire is voluntary, employees or recruits who refuse to answer could be passed over for promotion or not hired at all.
"Your decision to complete the integrity questionnaire must be voluntary, based on your desire to pursue a career with the CBSA," reads the introduction of the questionnaire. "You may withdraw from the application process at any time. You may refuse to provide answers to any or all of the questions contained in the integrity questionnaire. Such a refusal may result in your disqualification from the recruitment process."
In another section of the CBSA website, the agency says employees "must" complete the survey.
"Individuals wishing to be considered for employment with the CBSA in a higher-integrity position must complete and submit an integrity questionnaire. If an individual refuses to provide answers to any or all of the questions contained in the integrity questionnaire, this may result in disqualification and may be interpreted as a withdrawal from the security screening process."
The CBSA defines "higher-integrity positions" as "positions with enforcement authority and responsibilities and those positions which allow for access to enforcement information in databases, or knowledge of enforcement activity as well as positions of trust."
“Despite the CBSA saying it’s voluntary, they are making an effort to intimidate you to complete the questionnaire,” McMichael said.
McMichael said the union is looking into whether the questions can even be legally asked of employees.
The CBSA's southern Ontario region spokesperson, Jean D'Amelio-Swyer, declined to comment.
She said the questionnaire was not something to be commented on from a regional perspective and directed all questions to the CBSA headquarters.
The CBSA website claims it is collecting the information under the authorities of:
Financial Administration Act.
Policy on Government Security.
Personnel Security Standards.
Public Service Employment Act.
CBC News has requested a comment from the CBSA's national spokesperson.
The RCMP has a similar application survey given to new recruits. It also includes questions about gambling, alcohol, sexual activity and computer habits.
The RCMP also issues a pre-employment polygraph interview.