Alcohol, prostitution and gambling: Canada Border Service’s tough questions

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Sometimes what people do outside work impacts their productivity and the quality of their work – but is asking about their drinking and gambling habits an invasion of privacy? That’s what the union representing Canada Border Serve Agency (CBSA) has said about the agency’s “integrity questionnaire”.


The questions being asked include:

  • How much alcohol do you consume per week on average?
  • Have you ever applied for a driver's licence and been denied, or has your driver's licence ever been restricted, suspended or revoked for any reason?
  • Have you ever solicited the services of a prostitute?
  • Do you or your spouse/common law partner or cohabiter gamble (including lottery, casinos, online gaming, scratch tickets, etc)?

The agency claims the form is voluntary, however those who don’t complete it are likely to miss out on promotions, or may not be hired in the first place.

Employment lawyer John McGowan said it wasn’t necessarily the questions that were the problem, but what was going to be done with the answers. Even questions about license suspensions could cause problems because of potential medical issues.

"Sometimes there are medical reasons that a driver's licence is going to be suspended. You have a stroke, you might have it suspended," McGowan told the Toronto Star. "So here you ask a benign question and someone answers, 'Yep, I had a stroke.' Now you've got an applicant who admits to having a medical issue."

Once the recruiter has that information, even if they make a decision based on other grounds the argument for discrimination can be made.

"All that person knows is they didn’t get the position. They're thinking, they must not want to hire anybody who's had a heart attack, and that sounds discriminatory," McGowan added.

Similar concerns surround issues such as addiction or gambling problems.


Forum question: Would you want to know information about a candidate’s drinking or gambling habits before hiring?

  • Robert on 2012-10-10 11:53:10 AM

    It's odd. Surely the Border Agency can do licence checks? Also, do they not do medicals anymore? In the 90s for a non operational role in the airline industry, I was given a medical and drug test. Wouldn't that cover any issues? It seems a waste of time to ask because all it does is make sure that people good at hiding information are hired by Border services.

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