OTTAWA - A majority of Canadians believe the country's spy service might treat citizens differently because of their ethnicity, an internal poll has found.
The survey conducted for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) by Ekos Research Associates last October found 52 per cent of people interviewed thought race could affect how the agency interacts with people.
That finding, which appears under the headline "concerns" in a summary of survey results, comes amid sustained accusations by Canadian Muslims that the service engages in racial profiling.
CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion denied CSIS engages in racial profiling, suggesting in an interview Monday that people shouldn't read too much into the results, given the vague wording of the question.
"The term 'differently' wasn't defined very clearly during the polling, so it's difficult to draw a definite conclusion from that result," she argued.
"We target individuals based on their activities, not at all based on anything else.''
She confirmed it is still a concern for the agency, however.
"CSIS is aware that it needs to do some work with respect to building bridges and forging strong relationships, especially with the Muslim community in this country," she said, noting the service regularly attends meetings with various ethno-cultural groups across Canada to provide information and dispel "misconceptions" about what CSIS does. . .
Last summer, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) released a study claiming both CSIS and the RCMP regularly intimidate and threaten community members in their hunt for terrorists.
CAIR-CAN spokeswoman Halima Mautbur said there hasn't been much improvement since.
"Unfortunately, we still continue to receive complaints about CSIS, and I think the perception within the community is still largely the same," she said Monday.
Mautbur added while CSIS has been participating in some community meetings, the outreach efforts lag behind those of the RCMP.
"It just hasn't resulted in anything yet" beyond a stated willingness to improve relations, she said.