Almost 35,000 people pegged for removal from Canada evade border agency

Almost 35,000 people pegged for removal from Canada evade border agency

OTTAWA — Canada’s border agency has failed to promptly remove most of the people under orders to leave the country, and in tens of thousands of cases it has simply lost track of them, the federal auditor general says.

In a report tabled Wednesday in Parliament, the auditor said the Canada Border Services Agency’s efforts were hampered by poor data quality and case-management flaws, resulting in avoidable delays in thousands of cases.

Problems in information-sharing with immigration officials also slowed things down.

The border agency is responsible for carrying out removal orders to ensure public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.

The report noted the federal government had made significant investments over the last decade to improve the efficiency of the asylum system, including removals.

However, the level of enforceable removal orders — those involving people who have exhausted or waived all legal avenues to stay in Canada — remained largely unchanged, even for priority cases.

As of April 2019, there were about 50,000 people in Canada with enforceable removal orders. Two-thirds of these — 34,700 cases — involved individuals whose whereabouts were unknown. Of these, 2,800 had criminal histories.

Still, the border agency was often not conducting regular follow-ups to try to find them by opening each file at least every three years, or once a year for people with criminal issues.

Data integrity shortcomings limited the agency’s ability to know which removal orders to enforce, the report said.

“Without a reliable inventory of removal orders, the agency could not effectively prioritize removals according to risk and complexity. We also found cases in which the agency was unaware that removal orders had been issued,” it said.

“Many cases we examined were also stalled because officers had done little to overcome impediments like missing travel documents.”

The auditor noted that many countries, mostly in Europe, offer assistance programs that promote the voluntary return of foreign nationals to their countries of origin. Some operate through independent third parties and are not limited to failed asylum claimants, the report said.

“All recognize that voluntary returns are preferred to enforced removals, are more cost-effective, and facilitate rapid departures.”

The government will do a better job of ensuring the integrity of the system, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged at a news briefing Wednesday.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for the border agency, said the government accepts the auditor’s recommendations to fix the various problems.

In addition to improving its removals strategy, the border agency will enhance the way it tracks and triages cases to ensure priority ones are addressed promptly, Blair said in a statement.

“This includes continuing to implement a data integrity strategy to ensure that it can quickly identify the stages all cases are at so they can move forward in a timely fashion.”

The border agency is taking steps to find foreign nationals whose whereabouts are unknown by reviewing all outstanding cases, prioritizing criminal cases and focusing investigations on the most serious ones, Blair added.

Finally, the agency will develop an “incentive program” to increase voluntary compliance, he said.

The agency’s problems with managing removals date back more than a decade, long before the Liberals took the government reins from the Conservatives.

But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said it was another example of the Liberal government being unable to ensure a fair, orderly and compassionate immigration system. “We need a government that takes this kind of thing seriously.”

NDP public safety critic Jack Harris said the Liberals must make sure the border agency ”has sufficient resources to perform their duties.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.

—Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

border agency

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Most Read