Quebec student athlete says he was denied entry to the United States
Yassine Aber is seen in this undated handout photo. Yassine Aber, a track and field athlete with the Universite de Sherbrooke, said he was travelling to a weekend competition in Boston on Thursday when he ran into trouble at the Stanstead crossing on the Quebec-Vermont border. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Universite de Sherbrooke
MONTREAL — A Quebec student athlete says he’s not sure why he was denied entry to the United States after a five-hour interrogation in which he was asked about religion and his Moroccan roots.
Yassine Aber, a track and field athlete with the Universite de Sherbrooke, said he was travelling to a weekend competition in Boston on Thursday when he ran into trouble at the Stanstead crossing on the Quebec-Vermont border.
Aber, 19, said U.S. authorities wanted to know whether he attended a mosque and how often he visited Morocco.
“They asked me very specific questions about, do I go to the mosque or not, what mosque do I go to, some specific questions about people I may or may not know,” he told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview.
“They were very precise with the questions, very targeted.”
Aber said he was also fingerprinted, photographed and asked to turn over his phone and passwords for the duration of the interrogation, after which he was told he wouldn’t be allowed entry.
He said he was given a document stating he did not have a valid passport or visa to enter the country.
Border officials also told him that “entering the United States is a privilege and not a right,” he said.
Aber, who was born and raised in Sherbrooke, Que., says his Canadian passport is valid and does not expire until 2026. His parents moved to Canada from Morocco and have been here 25 years.
He said he couldn’t explain why he was the only one of the group of 20 students to be turned back, since he has travelled to the United States many times before without incident.
“All the other times, be it for races or training camps or family vacations, we were not stopped and passed right through like any other Canadian citizens,” he said.
The kinesiology student said university staff is helping him find a solution he hopes will allow him to travel in the future.
In the meantime, he’s considering attending a race in Ottawa next weekend instead.
Aber’s incident comes after a woman from the Montreal area said she and a cousin were denied entry to the United States last Saturday.
Fadwa Alaoui, a Moroccan-born Muslim who has lived in Canada for 20 years, said the questions she was asked focused almost exclusively on her religion, although authorities also wanted to know what she thought about U.S. President Donald Trump.
On Friday, an NDP MP urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise Aber’s case with Trump when the two leaders have their first meeting on Monday.
“Our prime minister needs to speak with Donald Trump when they meet next week and say that a Canadian, born in Canada, who happens to be of another faith, a Muslim faith, does not need a visa to go to the United States,” Murray Rankin told reporters in Ottawa.
“There’s not a rule for Muslims and a rule for other Canadians. It’s shocking, and we need the government to start taking action.”
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
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