Privacy groups up in arms over border agency’s intrusive ‘integrity’ employee survey

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

If you want to work for the government and particularly a law enforcement agency in Canada, be prepared to tell all.

According to the Globe and Mail, the Canada Border Services Agency is probing the personal lives of their employees with a new voluntary "integrity survey."

Here are some of the questions:

"How much alcohol do you consume per week on average?

  • Type of Alcohol
  • Amount and Frequency (weekly basis)"

"Have you ever solicited the services of a prostitute?

  • Yes
  • No
  • If yes, explain:"

"Have there been any major changes in your lifestyle during the past five (5) years, such as divorce and/or separation, a lottery win, a financial loss, bankruptcy, an illness, a death, job loss, etc.?

  • Yes
  • No
  • If yes, explain:"

According to an internal CBSA report from 2011, the questionnaire was deemed important by regional managers who wanted to mitigate the risks of dishonest activity by officers.

Some labour lawyers and privacy advocates that spoke to the Globe, however, are concerned about privacy rights.

"Wow … This is a concerning level of detail that may fall afoul of human rights law and privacy laws," B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn said.

"It would appear there are some major problems here."

While civil liberty groups may be up in arms about the CBSA test, it's really not much different from questionnaires administered by other law enforcement agencies.

The RCMP for example, also asks applicants about their alcohol consumption, and how many times they've been drunk in the past year; they appropriately ask about the use of, the date and frequency of use of illegal drugs; and, they also ask the applicant if he or she has committed bestiality.

If you wanted to apply for a job with British Columbia's Independent Investigations Office — which was created recently to investigate police misconduct — you might have to give-up information about your political activism and financial situation.

Their online sample integrity questionnaire includes queries such as: "Have you been involved in any form of political activism (protests, demonstrations, interest groups, etc.) in Canada or elsewhere?" and "What debts do you have, what are the names of the creditors and for what purposes were the debts incurred?"

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What do you think: invasion of privacy or appropriate questions for all of our collective security?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.