Canadian woman banned from USA for prayers on her phone

Fadwa Alaoui, a Canadian citizen, says she was turned away from the U.S. border after being asked detailed questions about her religion and her views on U.S. President Donald Trump. (photo: Salimah Shivji)

From CBC radio in Canada:

Wednesday February 08, 2017

Canadian woman denied entry to U.S. after Muslim prayers found on her phone

Fadwa Alaoui is a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen living in Brossard, Quebec. Like a lot of Quebecers, she sometimes drives down to Vermont to take advantage of the deals. But on Saturday, when her family pulled up at the border, Alaoui encountered something new.

After the usual set of questions, Alaoui says she was asked about her religion and her thoughts on U.S. President Donald Trump. She says border agents took her phone and fingerprints. Four hours later she was told that her family wasn’t welcome and she was forced to turn back.

Alaoui spoke with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about her ordeal and why she is struggling to explain what happened to her son. Here is part of their conversation.

Helen Mann: Ms. Alaoui, what kind of questions were you asked by U.S. Customs when you got to the border on Saturday?

Fadwa Alaoui: The usual questions like what is the reason of your visit and what is the place of your birth? I answered that I was born in Morocco. He told me: How long have you been here in Canada? I said that I was here more than 20 years. He told us okay you can park your car and come with us in our office. Once there, he asked us about our phone and the PIN number to open the phone.

HM: Now, they were also asking you other questions, as I understand it, about your religion?

FA: Yes, exactly. After that they came and interviewed us one by one. The first question he told me: You are Muslim, right? I responded, yes. He told me: Do you practise? I told him yes. He told me: Which mosque do you go? So I started to explain the mosque where I go. What is the name of the imam? Where do you pray? Where do the women pray? Does the imam come talk to you directly? What is the speech the imam gave? What is the frequency that you go to the mosque?

HM: And you answered all the questions?

FA: Yes. I answered all the questions, the best that I know. I was calm. I collaborate. I give him all the answers he wanted to know. He told me: Are you part of any group? Muslim group? I told him no. I told him it’s not my first time that I’m going to the United States. I have family there. I have my parents, my brothers, everyone is there. Today, especially, I want to bring my son with me because he is sick. I want to change his mind and give him a treat because he was sick, he had cancer. He asked me about the mosque: Do you know the last name of the imam? If he is always present? If someone replace him? The name of the person who replaced him? He told me: What do you think about the shooting in Quebec? Do you have relatives in Quebec that was one of the victims?

HM: I understand he also asked your thoughts on President Donald Trump?

FA: Yes. He asked me: What do you think about Donald Trump? I told him, what? He told me: [What’s] your opinion about his policy. I told him, listen, he has the right to do whatever he wants in his country. I don’t expect that. I’m not following the news. I’m not following what happened. I have a busy life. I have busy schedule with my son, with all these appointments at the hospital, with my kids.

HM: Now, after some time I understand they emerged and asked you about some videos they found on your phone. What were you asked about?

FA: They asked about prayers that I receive on my phone. I told him I’m not aware about it. I’m not the one who sends it. But he wanted to know what does it mean to you? It’s more prayers that we have to say. I’ve received from groups, from friends, because they know what I have been through with my kids. They send me prayers to say that it’s going to help you or something like that.

HM: Eventually you were told that they were not going to let your family into the United States. What did they say?

FA: They took our fingerprints, our pictures. The lady came to the front desk and she told me: “Okay, we’re not let you in.” I said, “What is the reason? Why?” She told me because you have videos and concerns against us. I was shocked. I told her, what? Is that my phone, my cousin’s phone — what phone? She told me it’s a combination of both phones.

HM: Do you have any idea what she might have meant by that?

FA: I don’t know, no. I signed the form. I was sick. I was shocked. I was tired so I just drove back home.

HM: And what did the form you signed say?

FA: It’s not saying the reasons that she said verbally. The form says: “Withdrawal of application for admission. Subject is inadmissible to the United States. An immigrant not in possession of a valid and expired immigrant’s visa.”

HM: You’re a Canadian citizen right?

FA: Yes. I’m a Canadian citizen. I travel with my Canadian passport. My passport is still valid until June 2018.

HM: Have you ever needed a visa to travel to the United States before?

FA: No. Not with my Canadian passport. I go there like every month. It’s the first time they react like that.

HM: So what do you say to your son? How do you explain this to him?

FA: I didn’t find the words to explain to him. I don’t want him to feel like we were discriminated because I raise my kids that we are all the same. We are Canadians. Yes, we have different names, but we are all the same. But I couldn’t find words to explain to him why.

‘Your rights are significantly narrower’: Lawyer’s advice to Canadians travelling to U.S.: here.

‘We didn’t have anything to hide’: Canadian heading to Women’s March refused entry to U.S.: here.

Canadian photojournalist detained for hours, refused entry to U.S.: here.

‘Give and receive love’: Friend of Quebec mosque attack victim finds strength in community: here.

Iranian student grateful to return to U.S. after federal judge halts travel ban: here.

Canadian barred from U.S. for life because he admitted he smokes pot: here.

A three-judge Appeals Court panel issued a unanimous ruling Thursday afternoon rejecting the Trump administration’s claim of “unreviewable” presidential power and sustaining a judicial order that bars enforcement of Trump’s temporary ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as his temporary ban on the entry of refugees from any country: here.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Wednesday afternoon seeking to block the detention of long-time US resident and undocumented immigrant, Guadalupe García de Rayos. Wednesday’s visit to the local ICE office in Phoenix was part of García de Rayos’ regularly scheduled check-in with the office, which has taken place every year, and more recently every six months, following a 2008 felony conviction for having false ID papers: here.

Bison are back in Canadian national park

This video says about itself:

Bison reintroduced to Banff National Park

6 February 2017

Parks Canada has successfully relocated 16 bison from Elk Island National Park to the remote Panther Valley in Banff National Park. This video by Parks Canada shows how the process worked.

By Lisa Monforton, CBC News in Canada:

Wild bison roam Banff National Park for 1st time in more than century

‘It’s one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America’

Feb 06, 2017 8:01 PM MT

The first wild bison to roam Banff National Park in more than a century have been airlifted into a remote valley in a “historic homecoming” aimed at re-establishing a thriving herd, Parks Canada said Monday.

The 16 bison — primarily pregnant two year olds — were loaded onto shipping containers on trucks in Elk Island National Park, about 35 kilometres east of Edmonton, and transported to the park in the past week.

The shipping containers were ferried by helicopter over the slopes and lowered into an enclosed pasture in Panther Valley near Sundre on the eastern slopes of the park.

The bison were let out into the pasture, where they’ll stay for 16 months while being closely monitored by Parks Canada using radio collars.

Eventually, in the summer of 2018, they’ll be released into a 1,200-square-kilometre area on the eastern slopes of the park, where they can interact with other native species, forage for food and integrate into the ecosystem.

Harvey Locke, a conservationist, writer and trustee with the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation in Banff, deemed the day a historic moment.

“This is a great day for Banff National Park. It’s a great day for Canada and frankly, it’s one of the great days for wildlife conservation in the history of North America,” Locke said.

Local conservationists involved in the relocation said they were relieved the moving process went so smoothly after years of research, preparations and consultations with various groups.

Karsten Heuer, a conservationist and adviser in the project, hailed it as a “big first step in bringing bison back to Banff National Park.”

“It’s a huge relief to actually have hooves on the ground,” Heuer said.

The longer-term goal is to re-establish a new wild population of bison in Banff National Park and help the conservation of the animal nationally and internationally. …

Locke said it’s only natural the bison should be roaming the park again.

“Restoring wild bison … is the righting of wrong that was caused in the 19th century when we almost eliminated wild bison as a species.… Banff Park was involved in saving the species from extinction 100 years ago, and today it’s involved in restoring this species as part of the landscape, as a wild animal, and that is really exciting,” Locke said.

Locke doesn’t think the bison will have any trouble adapting.

“I don’t think the challenges for this herd are very large, because we know from the archeological record that bison were in this park for over 10,000 years.… I think it’s going to go very, very well, because it’s a native species in its native habitat.”

Heuer called the move just the beginning.

“As we move forward, one thing we are really going to play close attention to is bringing Canadians along on the story,” Heuer said.

Ideas include continuing public education and awareness, with a chance for volunteer opportunities to learn more about the bison, Heuer said.

Murder Edward Snowden, Canadian spying bigwig says

This 2 December 2016 Amnesty International video says about itself:

Edward Snowden – Whistleblower

When Edward Snowden shared USA intelligence documents with journalists in June 2013, he revealed the shocking extent of global mass surveillance.

He showed how governments were secretly hoovering up huge chunks of our personal communications, including private emails, phone locations, web histories and so much more. All without our consent.

His courage changed the world. He sparked a global debate, changing laws and helping to protect our privacy. For the first time in 40 years, the USA passed laws to control government surveillance. Globally, technology companies including Apple and WhatsApp are now doing more to protect our personal information.

None of this would have happened without Edward Snowden. A former US Attorney General admitted that Snowden’s revelations “performed a public service”. Even President Obama said that this debate about surveillance “will make us stronger”.

Edward Snowden is a human rights hero. Yet he faces decades in prison, accused of selling secrets to enemies of the USA. With no guarantee of a fair trial in his home country, he is living in limbo in Russia.

By Roger Jordan in Canada:

Canada’s top spy “watchdog” says Edward Snowden should be shot

15 December 2016

Michael Doucet—the director of the government “watchdog” agency tasked with ensuring the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) doesn’t violate Canadians’ rights—has publicly declared that US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden should be shot.

Far from being an individual outburst, Doucet’s remarks exemplify broad sentiments within establishment circles. More than three years after Snowden lifted the veil on the NSA’s illegal activities, including the major role that Canada plays in the NSA-led “Five Eyes” global spy network, the Canadian ruling elite remains outraged at his exposures.

The head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), Doucet responded to a question at a recent talk he gave at Toronto’s Ryerson University on what Snowden’s fate would have been had he been Canadian by saying, “Do you want my opinion on that? Do you really want it? I’ll give it to you. If Edward Snowden had worked for CSIS and did what he did, he should be shot.”

Doucet’s outburst underscores the fraudulent character of the SIRC and like government “oversight” bodies charged with ensuring CSIS, Canada’s premier intelligence agency, and other parts of the national-security apparatus don’t violate Canadians’ civil liberties. Such “watchdogs” are in fact lapdogs—state bodies committed to defending, and covering up for, the police and intelligence agencies and upholding the capitalist social order.

The Liberal government response to Doucet’s inflammatory comments is no less revealing. Asked about them, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale noted blandly, “That remark strikes me as highly inappropriate.”

Beyond this, there has been no official government response, let alone any suggestion that Doucet should be removed or otherwise sanctioned. Nor have the opposition parties seen fit to raise the issue. As for the corporate media, only the Globe and Mail reported Doucet’s remarks and Goodale’s tepid criticism of them.

The indifference among ruling circles to Doucet’s effective call for Snowden’s execution reflects the ruling elite’s general contempt for basic democratic rights. In the name of the “war on terror,” successive Liberal and Conservative governments have erected the framework of a police state over the past 15 years, including sanctioning the intelligence agencies to systematically spy on Canadians. They would rather see figures like Snowden, whose courageous actions brought some of the state’s illegal practices to public attention, silenced, or even eliminated, than lift a finger in defence of democratic rights.

No country’s national security apparatus is more closely integrated with that of the US than Canada’s. As a key Washington ally for over three quarters of a century, Ottawa is deeply implicated in US imperialism’s aggressive pursuit of its geostrategic interests around the world. Canada has participated in virtually every US-led war over the past two decades, is playing a major role in the US military-strategic offensives against Russia and China, and through the “Five Eyes” surveillance network both assists the Pentagon in its wars and helps monitor the political beliefs and activities of the world’s population.

In 2013, Snowden revealed that the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE), Ottawa’s signals intelligence agency, functions as a veritable arm of the NSA. This includes: assisting the NSA in developing surveillance programs; carrying out operations, especially in countries where US citizens have limited access; and training personnel. It also conducts economic spying to benefit Canadian corporate interests, as shown by Snowden’s revelation that CSE eavesdropped on mining companies active in Brazil.

Other documents revealed by Snowden provided evidence that the CSE systematically collects the metadata of Canadians’ electronic communications, a blatant violation of their constitutional rights, not to mention the mandate of CSE, which is authorized to spy only on foreign targets.

CSIS has been no less aggressive in its law-breaking activities. The domestic spy agency has been combing Canadians’ metadata since 2004 and has lied to the courts about its actions. Federal court judges have repeatedly chastised CSIS and CSE for deliberately withholding information from them.

Doucet, who is ostensibly the top watchdog tasked with holding CSIS to account, was himself deeply implicated in the CSE-NSA partnership and as such, no doubt, in the development of the mass surveillance of North Americans’ electronic communications and internet use. He told his student audience that in the mid-2000s, when he worked for CSE, he served as the embedded liaison officer at NSA headquarters.

From the outset, Canada’s ruling elite made no secret of its hostility to Snowden. Like all other Western governments, Canada refused to grant Snowden asylum, despite the fact that he faces almost certain execution or incarceration for life should he return to the United States. He currently resides in Moscow, where he was stranded in 2013 after the US made clear that it was determined to seize him. This included forcing down the Bolivian president’s plane, because they believed it might be carrying Snowden to asylum in South America.

Canada’s then foreign minister, John Baird, declared his full support for the US efforts to bring Snowden to “justice,” publicly demanding Snowden surrender to US authorities. For his part, Jean-Pierre Plouffe, the government-appointed commissioner tasked with overseeing CSE’s activities, denounced Snowden’s exposures of the illegal activities of the NSA and CSE, saying they had led “to a lot of misinformation.”

In his Ryerson appearance, Doucet continued in this vein, asserting that Snowden’s actions had damaged “national security.” Immediately following his declaration that Snowden deserves to be shot, Docuet claimed that if Snowden had concerns about the scope and legality of the NSA’s spying he should have raised them with his superiors.

“(I)f he worked for CSIS, there are all the mechanisms there, as there were in the States, to raise the issues that he felt needed to be raised,” claimed Doucet. “If he really cared about the US, the US system, he would have exhausted every avenue … he would not have released so much information that would have placed Americans, allies and others in risk of harm.”

This is a pack of lies. In the first place, the spying operations of the NSA, CSE and the “Five Eyes” alliance are not directed at safeguarding the population, but at upholding the predatory interests of US and Canadian imperialism and their British, Australian and New Zealand allies. Not Snowden, but the national security apparatus, which functions as a state within the state to spy on and suppress political opposition, constitutes the real threat to the population, as demonstrated by their systematic violation of basic democratic rights.

Second, bodies like SIRC and their counterparts in other countries have proven worse than useless at preventing the erection of a police state apparatus and the embrace of illegal surveillance methods by the agencies that they are supposed to oversee.

While Doucet boasts that in Canada “there are all the mechanisms” for would-be whistle-blowers to come forward, his call for Snowden’s death (subsequently qualified to include his criminal prosecution) constitutes—to say the least—a chilling warning as to how the SIRC and Canadian elite would receive any internal complaints of illegal activities by the national security apparatus.

Since Snowden’s revelations were made public, the Canadian ruling class has further strengthened the repressive powers of its state. In 2015 the Conservatives and Liberals collaborated to ram through parliament legislation (Bill C-51) that guts privacy protections, creates a new “speech crime” of “promoting terrorism,” and empowers CSIS to break virtually any law when “disrupting” vaguely-defined threats to national security.

Although they ensured Bill C-51’s speedy passage, the Liberals, recognizing it was highly unpopular, promised during last fall’s election campaign that they would amend it. Predictably, this promise has proven to be a fraud. To date, the only amendment they have introduced is to create a parliamentary oversight committee, a move, which as the populations of Britain and the United States can testify, will do nothing to hinder the intelligence agencies’ illegal mass surveillance.

The silence of the smaller opposition parties, the New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois, and Greens, on Doucet’s call for Snowden’s execution should come as no surprise. All of the established parties accept the “war on terror” narrative as good coin and refuse to challenge the intelligence agencies’ practices.

The muted reactions to Doucet’s comments underscore that as the deepening capitalist crisis heightens already explosive social tensions, the ruling elite is preparing to use the most ruthless measures to suppress opposition to its program of austerity and imperialist war. Earlier this month, Liberal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr revealed the government is ready to use the military to suppress “non-peaceful” anti-pipeline protests.

The author also recommends:

Canadian spy agency concealed mass data intelligence-bank from courts
[10 November 2016]

Canada’s Liberals defend “war on terror,” spy agencies in Bill C-51 consultation
[17 September 2016]

Canada’s foreign minister calls on Edward Snowden to surrender to US authorities
[23 December 2016]

Amid a barrage of anti-Russian hysteria whipped up by the US government and media, a House committee report declassified on Thursday alleges that former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden stole information both for his own personal gain as well as for foreign governments, including Russian intelligence agencies with whom he had purportedly been in close contact. This report also comes amid popular demands to the Obama administration that Snowden be pardoned: here.

Rape rampant in Canadian army

This video says about itself:

13 November 2015

Canada’s Sikh Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has faced racial abuse from his own soldier for being Indian. Apparently, a non-commissioned officer from the Canadian Forces Base commented on Sajjan making a racist reference on social media.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Hundreds of Canadian soldiers assaulted by colleagues

Today, 18:04

Nearly one thousand Canadian soldiers during the last twelve months have been victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment. More than a quarter of the female soldiers have been assaulted during their careers, says the Canadian Statistical Office.

The office examined the situation, because the Canadian army has had for long time a reputation of hostility and aggression against women and homosexuals.

The army top brass began last year a campaign to put an end to harassment and sexual violence, but the Canadian Chief of Staff General Jonathan Vance acknowledges that the campaign appears to have had little effect. He calls the outcome of the investigation “sobering, but not surprising.”


Vance thinks the sexual mores are substantial problem for the Canadian Forces. “We know about it and try to address it. These new figures make me more motivated than ever to eradicate this behavior and ban the perpetrators from the army.”

The statistical office calculated that sexual assault and sexual harassment in the armed forces appear almost twice as much as in other work environments. 840 soldiers say they had to do last year with “unwanted sexual touching”, 150 soldiers have assaulted people and 110 soldiers complained about other unwanted sexual acts.

Higher rank

About 15 percent of the Canadian Forces are women and most of the complaints came from women soldiers. 49 percent said the perpetrator was a man with a higher rank.

Statistically, for soldiers one may expect that far less than 49% of other soldiers are of higher rank. I have no Canadian army figures on this; but in most armies the higher the rank, the less soldiers with that rank. So it looks like the higher the rank, the worse the sexual abuse.

Among men who reported sexual violence or intimidation, the perpetrators were primarily soldiers in the same rank.

The report does not mention any case of a soldier with a lower rank assaulting or harassing someone of higher rank.

Eight out of ten surveyed Canadian soldiers have also witnessed or have been targets last year of inappropriate sexual comments, innuendo, insults and jokes, the researchers say.

Men in Canadian army are at ‘significantly’ greater risk of suicide after deployment, study finds: here.