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The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River dividing Canada and the U.S., is shown on Friday June 15, 2012. (Mark Spowart/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Ambassador Bridge spans the Detroit River dividing Canada and the U.S., is shown on Friday June 15, 2012. (Mark Spowart/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Border agency delves into workers’ personal lives with ‘integrity’ survey Add to ...

The Canada Border Services Agency is asking its employees whether they have ever hired hookers, if they have ever taken Prozac, how much they drink and gamble – even whether they’ve ever threatened a pet.

In a voluntary “integrity questionnaire” unheard of in the Canadian civil service (or possibly within any government), the 23-page document basically asks employees to admit to anything bad that they’ve ever done.

“Have you ever done anything for which you could have been arrested but were not?” the form asks at one point, stating that filling out answers is completely voluntary.

The form was posted to the CBSA’s website in September, but not reported on until now.

It asks employees to disclose what kinds of booze they drink, whether they’ve ever seen bestiality on the Internet, and what kind of illicit drugs they’ve ever taken along with how they paid for them.

“It is imperative ... that the CBSA carefully assess the integrity of new applicants and current employees,” the form says in its preamble.

Canada’s border guards are in sensitive positions because they manage goods and people crossing Canada’s borders, and also have access to secret government databases. Some criminal cases have documented how border guards have been paid to look the other way if, for instance, drug shipments come in.

So, the federal government has an acute interest in ensuring its border guards aren’t exposed to corruption. That said, labour lawyers and privacy advocates are horrified by the survey, saying it appears to go beyond the acceptable questions an employer can ask in Canada.

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

“It would appear there are some major problems here.”

The survey may point to a state of affairs where employers no longer feel their workers’ personal lives are out of bounds. Generally speaking, the more secret the work, the more scrutiny directed toward the personal lives of employees in sensitive government agencies.

The survey urges employees to complete it “only if you are responding of your own free will.”

However, the document’s drafters also tell employees that should they do anything bad or engage in borderline behavior in the future, they should tell the government at the first opportunity.

“Should there be a change in circumstances, after your submission of the intergrity questionnaire which would require that you amend any of the responses … you should contact the recruitment officers.”

With a report from Tu Thanh Ha

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