The federal public safety minister says he’ll investigate after a CTV News report revealed that travellers from the Middle East and countries with mostly black populations are more likely to face luggage searches or additional questioning than other travellers.

Air travellers to Canada from Africa and the Caribbean last year were flagged for secondary inspection for customs reasons nearly four times as often as citizens of European Union countries, CTV’s analysis of Canada Border Services Agency data revealed on Wednesday.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale responded to report Thursday, saying that the CBSA “must be a bias-free organization.”

“Any kind of racial or ethnic profiling is not only inappropriate, it's contrary to Canadian law," Goodale said.

The data showed that more than 13 per cent of passengers with passports from Middle Eastern countries, and 11 per cent from African or Caribbean nations, were pulled aside for customs issues.

Travellers from Iran, Chad, Jamaica, Nigeria and the Philippines were most likely to face the inspections.

By comparison, only 2.7 per cent of EU citizens were flagged for customs review.

The CBSA emphatically denies that it considers travellers’ citizenships or ethnic origins when choosing who to flag to undergo follow-up screening.

The CBSA called the CTV report “misleading and superficial,” but offered no explanation for why travellers from the Middle East and countries with mostly black populations are sent to secondary screening more often than passengers from Europe.

"There is nothing further from the truth. The CBSA does not engage in racial profiling,” CBSA president John Ossowski said in a statement.

Ossowski said there are several reasons why a traveller might face additional screening, and that secondary examinations “should not be viewed as an accusation of wrong-doing.”

Among those reasons, Ossowski says, are document validation, payment of duty and taxes, Health Canada requirements, and known risks.

NDP MP Matthew Dube addressed the issue in Ottawa on Thursday, calling for an independent watchdog to oversee the CBSA, similar to oversight bodies for CSIS and the RCMP.

"I think it's incumbent on the minister to investigate to see if this is substantiated in any way. And I think following that, put in place clear guidelines, making it absolutely, 100 per cent apparent that this kind of profiling of travellers is not acceptable,” Dube said.

Visitors from Nordic countries faced some of the lowest rates of screening, with only 1.4 per cent of visitors from Iceland and 1.9 per cent from Denmark pulled over for luggage searches or further customs review.

While the records do not indicate the race or the ethnicity of the passenger, they do track citizenship and whether visitors were subject to additional scrutiny for customs, immigration, or carrying large amounts of cash.

The database, which tracked more than 34 million air passenger arrivals to Canada for 2017, was obtained by CTV News under the Access to Information Act.

With a report from CTV’s Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor