Auditor General raises concerns
about citizenship programs
by Michael Scott
The breaking news in the immigration world is the release of the Auditor General’s report on citizenship programs tabled in the House of Commons on May 3, 2016. Fraud is one of the major concerns raised by the audit. “We have concluded that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) efforts to detect and prevent citizenship fraud were not adequate,” said Auditor General Michael Ferguson in a prepared statement. “These gaps made it difficult for Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada to assess the impacts of its efforts to combat citizenship fraud.”
Fraud is highly significant and can lead to the revocation of citizenship. Some of the most common reasons for revocation include residency, identity fraud, and undeclared criminal proceedings. The department was criticized for failing to identify and prevent fraud when dealing with suspicious documents, such as altered passports. One region for example reports that since 2010 that none of the citizenship officers seized any suspicious documents for in-depth analysis. Further, the department failed to implement a protocol for dealing with “problem addresses” when making decisions about the grant of citizenship. Problem addresses are those known or associated with fraud and used by applicants to meet residency requirements. “For example, one address was not identified as a problem even though it had been used by 50 different applicants, seven of whom were granted citizenship,” said Mr. Ferguson.
The problems within the department are further complicated by poor sharing of information with the RCMP, who have the responsibility to provide information about criminal behaviour among the pool of permanent resident applicants, and the Canada Border Security Services Agency (CBSA), which leads investigations of immigration fraud.
The department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship did not keep track of the exact number of fraud risks but reported 700 pending revocation cases as of January 2016. Revocation of citizenship is both “time consuming and costly” but something mandated under the Citizenship Act.
Minister McCallum issued a press release on the findings. “Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada accepts the Auditor General’s specific recommendations, and will work quickly to implement them. My department has already made a number of improvements to better identify cases where there is the potential for citizenship fraud.” He also mentioned some of the specific steps IRCC has such as flagging high-risk addresses, better investigative procedures between CBSA and the RCMP, and the implementation of new Program Integrity Framework to “manage fraud risks.” He moved to respond to opposition criticism by restating that his department takes the Auditor General’s findings to heart, and are “continuously looking for ways to improve fraud detection and prevention processes in all of our programs.”
Immigration, for the uninitiated, is not just about the processing of applications but also applying due diligence to ensure that the integrity of all programs, including citizenship, are not compromised. And yes it is possible for persons who have received a grant of citizenship to be challenged about fraudulent claims and it is also possible that a revocation process can be initiated. If someone breaks the law in Canada they can and will be pursued by the authorities. This is not just because the Auditor General says it is happening but also because we expect our government officials to enforce the law of the land, as in Sections 10(1)(2) of the Act.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.