OTTAWA (CP) – The federal government must pressure U.S. border authorities to stop racial and religious profiling of Canadian Muslims and Arabs, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday.

The call came after a 22-year-old northern Ontario student said he was detained for more than 12 hours and interrogated like a suspected terrorist at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last week.

The council is calling on Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay to contact U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the problem, or issue a travel advisory to Canadian Muslims to avoid travelling to the U.S.

“Our government must act to ensure that Canadians are not profiled, barred entry and indiscriminately added to American no-fly lists,” the council’s executive director, Karl Nickner, said in a release.

“The livelihood and future of Canadian citizens cannot be halted without just cause.”

Mahmoud Zeitoun, a student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., said the incident with airport officials took place March 15 while he was en route to Denver with a dentist and an assistant.

Zeitoun, who was born in Lebanon but is a Canadian citizen, said he was headed to Colorado to act as the dentist’s patient while she performed an exam to practise in her field in the U.S.

After answering routine questions as to why the group was entering the U.S. and his planned return five days later, Zeitoun said U.S. officials told him he could only enter the country on the condition that he depart through major ports between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. – which conflicted with his planned return time.

When he asked to speak with a supervisor, he said he was told that he needed a visa to enter the country. Canadians travelling to the U.S. are not normally required to possess visas, unless they are visiting for work purposes.

Zeitoun said the dentist and the assistant left on their next flight, but that he was detained for 12 1/2 hours, during which he was asked whether he had ties to the Lebanese group Hezbollah or knew anyone who has hatred towards the U.S.

“These questions were just so out of my range,” he told Thunder Bay radio station CKPR on Monday.

“And the thing is, if you don’t answer, they’re going to say you’re lying.”

He said airport officials also seized his laptop with no guarantee of its return, even though he needs the computer to complete his university courses this semester.


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