Ex-Commissionaire says religious views cost him top-secret clearance
OTTAWA — A former Commissionaire says he was denied the chance to get the top-secret security clearance needed to work at a government agency after telling interviewers he is Catholic and believes armed conflict is wrong.
Tyler Cybulski, 24, says he was told his views could “put into question” his loyalty to Canada.
The alleged incident was the subject of an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing this week in which secrecy was a theme. Not only does the complaint involve pre-screening for top-secret security status, but the name of the government agency where he hoped to work is the subject of a publication ban. Tribunal vice-chair Paul Aterman also banned publication of the names of the two people who conducted the screening interview with Cybulski in March 2011, but declined a request by lawyer David Law to issue a more sweeping ban on the proceedings.
Cybulski has filed a Human Rights complaint against the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires (Ottawa Division), which mainly serves government departments in the city.
Cybulski began training to work as a Commissionaire in late 2010. He was pulled aside during that training and asked whether he would be interested in being screened by the organization for top-secret security clearance.
But Cybulski said the pre-screening interview conducted by Commissionaires, which took place several months later, was abruptly ended soon after he said that he was a “religious guy” who believes violence and armed conflict is wrong. The pre-screening was the first step toward working at a government agency that requires security guards to have top-secret security clearance and for which they receive higher pay.
Cybulski told the tribunal hearing that when he entered the room where the interview was held, the site supervisor pulled out a clipboard and “told me to relax and answer as openly and honestly as I could.”
Cybulski was then asked what his position was on “Canada’s involvement overseas.”
Cybulski said he responded that “I’m Catholic and a religious guy and I don’t think it is morally or ethically right to kill people.”
Cybulski said he was asked if he would like to elaborate but declined.
“At that point they turned to one another and said, ‘Do you want to continue?’” Cybulski said the two shook their heads as if they “disapproved of my answer.”
He said the site supervisor and the second interviewer asked him two more quick questions — whether he belonged to any clubs, associations or groups and whether he was pursuing his education. After responding “No” to both questions, Cybulski was ushered to another room where, after 15 or 20 minutes, he was brought back in and told he would not be considered for a job there.
I thought they were joking. I didn’t know how to react. I was told the interview was basically over.
– Tyler Cybulski
Cybulski said he asked whether his answer to the question about Canada’s involvement overseas was the reason he was being turned down and was told they couldn’t tell him. He said he pressed the point saying, “Don’t bull—- me. There is a reason and we all know it is because of that question.”
He said the site supervisor replied that Cybulski’s answer “could put into question your loyalty to Canada.”
Cybulski said he was also told he had a view “that widely contradicted that of the government and brought into question my loyalty to Canada.”
Cybulski said he was shocked by what he was hearing.
“I thought they were joking. I didn’t know how to react. I was told the interview was basically over.”
The last thing the interviewers told him, he said, was not to talk about the interview with anyone.
He said he wrote down the question after leaving the interview but didn’t take any action for nearly a year when he filed a human rights complaint claiming discrimination and asking for damages of more than $1 million. Cybulski also asked for a change in the way such interviews are conducted.
Law, who represents the Commissionaires at the tribunal, said he intends to ask that the complaint be dismissed when the hearing resumes in December because of lack of evidence of discrimination.
Cybulski who claimed damages based on lost job opportunities, continued working for the Commissionaires after the pre-screening interview, including at the Department of National Defence, but said he eventually took another job after he was made a casual worker and had to phone in every day to see if there was work. He said his human rights complaint had no bearing on his decision to leave the company.
Cybulski said he believes he will never be able to get a top secret security clearance because of the interview. He also said he felt depressed about its outcome.
“You shouldn’t have to feel that following your beliefs or religion is going to negatively impact your life. It shouldn’t be something that is held against you.”
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