Friday, August 01, 2008

Sensitivity Training For Pearson Staff

The Toronto Star is reporting that Canada Border Services Agency is putting officials through sensitivity training so they can appropriately deal with Arab and Muslim travelers.

This is of course welcome news. As a manager we personally negotiate or deal with people of other cultures all the time - and thus we take cultural sensitivity training. For example, in North America when people negotiate, the terms are usually very clear and everyone is eager to get a deal and time is a constraint. We don't mix business with pleasure. However when you negotiate with the Mexicans or Indians, they like to take their own sweet time. This is NOT a delaying tactic - they have a culture of getting to "know" the person they are dealing with and cultivating relations. Time is fluid and "there is always tomorrow" and a deal may not be very specific in the details.

Once you KNOW this, then you know this is something you can always use to your advantage. Sensitivity training never hurt anyone. Thus I find the attitude of the union representative in the article very selfish, self serving and borderline racist (no pun intended).
I do think that once they become a Canadian and they live among us, that they should pick up our ways and not have us picking up their ways.
Let alone the fact that some Arabs and Muslims may be travellers and not Canadian, so they DON'T have to "act Canadian" (whatever that means). Sensitivity training actually helps border agents do a better job.

For one, they don't waste their time on nothing cases. To quote the example in the article, many Muslim women come from cultures where they don't look an authority figure in the eye as a sign of respect. So while she is respecting you, you think she has something to hide and pull her over for scrutiny. So of course she is going to feel discriminated again, while you merely did your duty by acting on a valid suspicion (which you SHOULD do). She will them complain and an inquiry will be filed against you and you will go through the whole rigamarole at the end of which you will be found not guilty and she will be unhappy and you will be unhappy at going through the ordeal. So in the end, having that piece of cultural insight would have been good and advantageous for all concerned.

Second, WHY in God's name would you object to being paid by work for NOT doing work? We used to love those courses our offices sent us on, as that meant taking a paid break while relaxing in a course and eating free food. Me thinks the border guards doth protest too much.