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Detention of Iranian-origin Canadians at U.S. border 'plain wrong': NDP MP

Last Updated Jan 6, 2020 at 7:57 pm PST


An NDP MP calls the recent detentions of Iranian-origin Canadians at the border 'discriminatory'

MP Don Davies is calling on the federal government to express concern over the situation he calls 'plain wrong'

A number of Canadian citizens, residents of Iranian origin say they were held at the U.S. border over the weekend

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A local NDP member of parliament is weighing in on the recent detentions of Canadians of Iranian origin, calling what’s happening at the U.S.-Canada border “discriminatory.”

Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies is calling on the federal government to express concern over what’s happening at border crossings, saying it’s just plain wrong.

“Deeply concerned,” Davies told NEWS 1130 about how he’s feeling toward the situation. “Anytime you hear issues of, let’s call it what it is, racial profiling or ethnic stereotyping, where citizens are questioned about their political views or allegiances, is obviously of great concern.”

Davies said the NDP wants Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne to raise this issue with their American counterparts.

“We should not be making any assumptions about citizens because of their background or because of where they come from, and make sure that their rights are fully respected,” Davies said of the detentions. “Canadians are Canadians, we should be treated the same and our rights are the same — regardless of where heritage is from.”

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), more than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were detained while trying to cross the Peace Arch Border back into the U.S. this weekend.

CAIR said those detained were questioned about their allegiances and political views, and their passports were confiscated. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has refuted the use of the word detention with respect to what’s happened.

Related video: Iranian-born Canadians held & interrogated at U.S. border

In some cases, people said they waited somewhere in the range of five hours to enter the U.S.

In a statement, Blair’s office confirmed the Canada Border Services Agency had no involvement with what was happening.

“All Canadian citizens, regardless of their background, are equal before and under the law, and no one will ever be arbitrarily detained at the Canadian border nor refused entry purely because of their ethnicity or religion,” the statement read.

The apparent detentions came days after a top Iranian general was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, escalating tensions between Iran, the U.S., and Iraq.

Davies believes the Canadian government needs to step up for human rights and be a “voice of respect for international conventions.”

“And to be a positive, constructive voice for de-escalation. I think that’s really called for right now,” he said, calling what’s happened to the dozens of people at the border discriminatory. “I think it speaks to stigmatization based on background.”

Davies even drew parallels between what’s happened, adding Canada has its own history.

“Canadians can remember the internment of Japanese-Canadians where people were rounded up purely because of their heritage with no regard to their individual situations,” he explained. “And we end up apologizing for that decades later and recognizing how wrong it is. We’re in a time of that right now, and I think that to really learn those lessons of the past means we have to apply a different approach today.”

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee says U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s denial it detained people of Iranian origin at the border this weekend is “not credible.”

“The reports out of the border crossing at Blaine are deeply alarming,” he said in a release. “This is wrong and rife with constitutional and moral problems. No one should be treated differently due to where they come from, how they look or what language they speak.”

A North Vancouver woman who said she was held at the B.C.-Washington border on Saturday told CityNews she was questioned extensively about her family’s background and history, at one point even being asked if she ever received weapons training.