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Canadian files complaint after CBSA agent allegedly tells him ‘You’re Somalian’ as reason for search

October 15, 2020

Canadian Boarder Service Agency should be subject to independent oversight

The CBC is reporting on a human rights complaint filed against the Canadian Border Service Agency by a Canadian graduate student who was interrogated upon returning to Canada from a research trip to Kenya.

Mohamed Duale was born in Somalia but has been a Canadian citizen for many years. He is a PhD student at Carleton University and returned from his research trip in September 2019:

In the complaint, Duale says that shortly after disembarking, he was told to proceed to secondary screening — something he’d never been asked to do before. There, he says, a “white female CBSA officer” asked him whether he was really a PhD student, what his dissertation topic was and his central argument.

Duale says he explained he had been researching the experiences of refugee youth, but as the questions grew more detailed, he says he told the officer he wasn’t obligated to disclose such information to enter his own country.

At that point, he says, the officer put his passport in her pocket and said she wouldn’t return it until he sufficiently answered her questions. Duale tried again to explain the purpose of his trip, but added he hadn’t written his dissertation yet and hadn’t come up with a central argument.

According to the complaint, the agent asked why he wanted to do a PhD. Duale responded that he wanted to become an academic and asked for his passport back, to which the agent replied he would need to show additional identification.

After inspecting his driver’s licence, he says, the officer “threw the passport” into his hand and that it fell to the ground. As he bent down to pick it up, he says the officer told him, “You look nervous.”

“I replied that I was nervous because I was being interrogated for trying to enter my own country,” Duale said, asking the officer why he’d been treated this way.

It’s at that point that the agent allegedly told him it was because of where he was born, saying he was “Somalian” and adding it was her job to ensure “everyone has the passport that belonged to them.”

Duale said he replied that “Somalian” is an offensive characterization of Somali people and that being born somewhere else doesn’t make a person any less a citizen. Born in Mogadishu, Duale had been a Canadian citizen for 15 years at the time of the incident.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is representing Mr. Duale, along with GP’s Mariam Moktar and Sarah Rostom. “They argue the 33-year-old’s experience is part of a broader pattern of discrimination by the CBSA and underlines the need for independent oversight of the agency — something that was in Bill C-3 last year, before it died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued over the summer.”

Read the entire article here.


Mariam Moktar, Sarah Rostom

Practice Areas

Human Rights Law