Often, the holidays are the times for travel in airports and across borders. People are excited to visit their families and go on vacation; however, if you think that the stress of getting to your flight on time, going through airport security (or across a border) and not losing your luggage isn’t enough to worry about, the racist behavior of some custom agents, as well as adding more stress, can be insulting for Canadian citizens, targeted because of their faith and ethnicity.

On January 4, grade 12 Riverside student, Marwa Aziz, and her family were detained for eight hours at the U.S. Customs and Border protection with no food or use of their phones. They were deprived of their passports, car keys, and even cellphones. When they asked if they could leave customs, they were told that they couldn’t since they were currently being searched. They entered the building at 10:00 am and were released at 5:00 pm along with dozens of other Iranian Canadians being interrogated and detained as well. The current tensions between the U.S. and Iran might be an explanation as to why Canadians, of Iranian background, are being unfairly targeted.

“I was confused as to why we were being detained since we all had Canadian citizenship. I was upset about the fact that we weren’t a threat, but we were treated like one,” said Aziz. All speculation aside as to the custom’s motives, it is not fair for them to have been held for so long. Marwa’s mother asked why they had been kept for so long and the officer replied with, “Due to global matters, we’re changing our protocol.” Even if the protocol has been changed, it is unethical for them to have detained people for eight hours with no food or use of their phones to contact any of their family members to let them know what had been going on. It is not fair for them to have been treated like criminals. As customs did not have any proof of those detained posing a threat or danger of any kind, certainly, they were judged solely on their appearances.

Racial profiling at airports isn’t something new; it is a process that depends on the existing stereotypes based on race, color, ethnicity or religion, rather than on a reasonable suspicion that can be undertaken for reasons of safety, security, or public protection. And it becomes a bigger issue when people act on their own prejudicial views in a way that can affect others. The way some at the U.S. customs have treated people who are the slightest bit different from them can be considered as arbitrary.

“Throughout my life, I have been judged based on my appearance and have faced discrimination and racial profiling. I am so thankful to not have experienced the worst of it that many others go through on a daily basis,” said Aziz. She is also very thankful to have an amazing community here at Riverside that supports and encourages diversity in the community.

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Maxwell Johnson talking about his experience at BMO.

Canada has also been guilty of racial profiling. On December 20, 2019, a First Nations 12-year-old girl was arrested and handcuffed along with her grandfather while trying to open a bank account so that her grandfather could transfer her funds electronically whenever she had basketball games. The employee at BMO (arbitrarily, we can assume) became suspicious and claimed that he and his granddaughter were both committing a possible fraud; they were then handcuffed and detained by the police. One can safely assume that they were victims of racial profiling.

We are all human, rather than discouraging our differences, we should be celebrating them. Blatant examples such as these are a sad testament to the times.

Photo courtesy of CBC News.