A company that hires screening officers for many Canadian airports is changing its job postings after CBC News discovered it was excluding people who weren’t Canadian citizens, which is against federal regulations.

Yassine Hakkou applied to work as a pre-board screening officer at the James Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg.  But Hakkou was denied a job with Garda World because he isn’t a citizen.

In fact, Garda World had made a number of online postings that also required citizenship, but federal regulations say security workers can be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

“I applied, then no answer, so they keep posting it. So I applied again and again and no one answered,” said Hakkou. “I sent an email to Garda asking why because I have all the job requirements. Why didn't they ever call me for an interview?”

Hakkou said the job posting indicated he had to be legally entitled to work in Canada.  In December, he received an email from a GARDA employee stating “to work in the Aviation sector, you must be a Canadian Citizen and have lived in Canada for a minimum of five years.”

When Hakkou asked the employee why this was not reflected in the job posting, she replied, “We can only ask certain questions on the website. However, being a Canadian Citizen is a requirement.”

“I didn't tell her anything about my citizenship,” Hakkou said. “I don't know how she knows that I am citizen or not. She said, ‘We can't ask for everything on our website.’ Why not? Are you trying to [hide] something?”

There are more than 5,000 security officers working at airports across Canada. 

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or CATSA, has hired three security companies, including Garda World, to staff those jobs. 

CATSA, a crown corporation, follows Canadian Aviation Securities Regulations set out by Transport Canada.  Those regulations indicate screening officers may be Canadian Citizens or permanent residents.

When CBC News asked CATSA about the restrictions in GARDA’s emails and job postings, the agency said the requirements should be standard across Canada, and it has taken action to correct the issue.

“These are requirements and they have to be clear so we’ve asked Garda to modify their language on recruitment postings, and we understand they will do that as soon as they can,” said CATSA spokesperson, Mathieu Larocque.

“As to why there were discrepancies,” said Larocque, “Garda will have to answer you on that.”

Joe Gavaghan, spokesperson for Garda World, said the security giant is taking immediate action to ensure job postings are consistent in “properly stating the requirements.”

When CBC asked why one of Garda’s human resource advisors would tell Hakkou citizenship is a requirement, the company said it would not comment on a specific incident involving an applicant. 

It did encourage Hakkou to file a complaint about his experience, and an investigation could be launched. 

“If there is anyone who feels they were given incorrect information, we would just encourage them to get back in touch with us,” said Gavaghan.

But human rights and labour lawyer Robert Watchman said more should be done. 

"I suppose what should happen is obviously anybody who did apply and was denied on that basis should be advised of it or there should be a general notice given that qualification is not limited to citizenship," said Watchman, "Be proactive and ensure that people didn't unfortunately fail to apply or were refused employment on a basis that wasn't actually a bona fide occupational requirement."

The Canadian Human Rights Commission said generally, employers should not ask about citizenship but rather about eligibility to work in the country. Watchman said human rights often trump other rules and regulations in the court of law.

Now, Hakkou isn’t sure how he feels about GARDA after this experience. 

“It's not fair, actually,” Hakkou said, “Things like that should not happen.”

 Hakkou now wonders how many other applicants have faced the same challenge.

Job ad

A job ad from Garda World shows a opening for pre-board security officers.