Travel Survey Asked If Immigration ‘Threatens The Purity’ Of Canada

"I was alarmed and extremely concerned," said loyalty member Lacey Willmott, who filed a complaint with Aeroplan after taking the survey last week.

Close-up of Aeroplan membership card

A recent survey found on the travel site Aeroplan offended users by asking a slew of controversial and invasive questions.

According to CBC News, the survey asked people their level of agreement or disagreement on statements suggesting that men were superior, traditional marriage was the only way to form a family, and asserting that immigration “threatens the purity of the country.”

Aimia, Aeroplan’s parent company, said they hired a market research firm to create the survey, which was intended to help the company make improvements to its loyalty program. Alas, Aimia admits that it did not thoroughly or properly review the survey before sending it out to its members.

The offensive nature of the questionnaire was brought to light by Lacey Willmott, who filed a complaint with Aeroplan after taking the survey last week.

"I was alarmed and extremely concerned," said Willmott, a geography student working toward her doctorate degree at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.

She received an email from Aeroplan offering her 100 bonus miles to take a “shopping and life habits” survey. However, while the 80-question survey asked about members’ thoughts on shopping and brands, disturbing personal questions were slipped in.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is really problematic,'" said Willmott, who added that she was confused about what the questions had to do with the company’s rewards program.

The questions gave the option to “Totally disagree” with each statement, but the fact that they were tinged with racism, sexism, and xenophobia was still troubling to Willmott, who said she was “horrified” by the question that asserted immigration threatens Canada’s “purity.”’

Willmott was not the only person taken aback by the questions. After her story broke, many Twitter users shared her sentiments. 

Willmott also raised concerns about how the sensitive data from the survey would be used. On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, she said she was worried that Aeroplan may have been collecting the information for some purpose other than adjusting the rewards program.

However, the market research firm responsible for the survey, CROP, confirmed that the data was being collected exclusively for Aeroplan and that the company was trying to gauge the attitudes and values of its members in an effort to better serve them.

Alain Giguere, CROP’s president, said he included the questions to help Aeroplan understand its members’ views.

"Are we dealing with modern people or are we dealing with very traditional people," he said. "The goal of it is really to understand all the sensitivities of your audience."

However, Giguere said he’s been asking questions of this nature in market research surveys for decades, including just last year in a poll on populism and xenophobia for CBC’s Radio-Canada.

He also noted that if any of the questions offends a survey taker, they can simply oppose it.

"You just have to disagree and we will know that you are a modern person," he said. "This is a very scientific process."

Despite Giguere’s defense of his provocative line of questioning, Aimia has issued an apology to its Aeroplan members and vowed to delete the data collected from the survey.

"I was surprised by the questions myself," said Aimia spokesperson Cheryl Kim in an email. "After looking into it, there are aspects of the survey that don't meet the standards we hold ourselves to in terms of the kind of information we gather."  

Although Aimia and Aeroplan have pledged to be more diligent going forward, it's frustrating that this slipped through the cracks in the first place. There should always be a careful and extensive review process when collecting personal data from people, and the purpose for gathering said data should be made transparent.  

Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Pixabay, janeb13

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