Articles University of Ottawa

The need to do a much better job of removing those who do not belong in Canada

The auditor general found despite a recent increase in removals, about 50,000 enforceable cases piled up in the CBSA’s inventory during the time of her audit.

How does a border agency lose track of 34,000 people?

Have you ever been to a football game in Canada? I have, in many cities (Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Regina). And, as I live in Ottawa, I have been on many occasions to TD Place Stadium, which used to be called Frank Clair Stadium, which used to be called Landsdowne Park, which used to be called… what is it with all these name changes?

If the crowd is a good one it hits capacity at 24,000 spectators. And if you have ever found yourself in a stadium with 23,999 of your fellow fans you know that is a lot of people. Just try to get a beer at half time and you know what I mean!

What if I were to tell you that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), according to Canada’s Auditor General, has lost track of 34,700 individuals, out of an outstanding case load of 50,000, who have been ordered to leave the country? Yes, you read that correctly. Of the 50,000 people deemed inadmissible to Canada two-thirds are… somewhere in this country. That number is 10,000 more than a stadium full of screaming Red Blacks fans.

Am I the only one disturbed by this? Is it just me, or is the fact that 34,700 people whom the government has assessed as not belonging here, for a variety of reasons, are unaccounted for? How does this happen in 2020 what with all the methods at the government’s disposal to keep track of us?

I am not suggesting that all 34,700 represent a national security threat (although some most certainly do). As it turns out, the vast majority are failed asylum cases (those who applied so stay here but whose applications were rejected) so not national security ones, one assumes. But approximately 2,800 files in the “wanted inventory” are criminal cases, identified as people who may pose a safety risk because of criminal convictions, charges or human rights violations, or because they have ties to organized crime or pose a national security risk.

This is not good folks.

Let’s go back to first principles. The bottom line is that every nation has a right to determine who gets in and who does not. Canada has a very good record in welcoming newcomers. We are admittedly, and proudly, a nation of immigrants and the vast majority of us see immigration as a net benefit. We take in somewhere in the neighbourhood of 300,000 new Canadians every year. No one, then, can claim that we are not doing our part.

What if I were to tell you that the Canada Border Services Agency has lost track of 34,700 individuals, out of an outstanding case load of 50,000, who have been ordered to leave the country? Of the 50,000 people deemed inadmissible to Canada two-thirds are… somewhere in this country.

But when those who show up end up being individuals who lie about their situation (e.g. the supposed danger they are in) or who have nefarious intent (criminal past or, shudder, affiliation to a terrorist group) we cannot and must not allow them to stay. Beyond the threat they pose to Canadians, they also taint the waters for other candidates who have a valid reason to emigrate and whom we welcome with open arms.

In a perfect world we would identify the bad apples BEFORE they arrive on our shores (at an embassy or consulate abroad, for instance, or thanks to intelligence) and prevent them from getting here in the first place. As this world is far from perfect, we must have a system for rapid removal, i.e. no prolonged appeals and review mechanisms that in some cases have dragged for DECADES (yes, decades, you read that right: see national security certificate case history). They should have a brief hearing to make their case and, if it is not good enough, sayonara.

A recent incident in London, Ontario, shows what happens when the system breaks down. Bill Horace, a known warlord from Liberia, came to Canada in 2004 (2004!) and stayed until he was killed last week: a Toronto police officer who happens to be the father of a suspect wanted in the crime has been charged with misleading police in their investigation into the incident.  Why was he here despite allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity?  What justice is there for the people of Liberia when they see this criminal living comfortably in Canada?  Why was he not sent back to face trial decades ago?  It has been made clear that the government knew who they were and what they had done.

There will be those upset at this column. We have a very active ‘immigration rights’ lobby in which some members state, incredibly, ‘No one is illegal’.  This a fantasy.  Bad people try to come here all the time and it is thanks to our officials that most do not breach our border.  As I noted above, every sovereign nation has both the right, and the duty I would argue, to prevent them from getting here.

CBSA and the whole system clearly needs a review if 34,700 ‘undesirables’ are still here.  It is obvious that in a country as large as Canada CBSA, and any analogous agency, has a tough job ahead of it.   I have no reason to believe that the men and women on our borders are not doing the best job they can. Yet, something has to be done. For one we should nix the drawn-out appeals process and remove these cases ASAP. Every person should ‘get their day in court’ but there is a reasonable limit on how long this can go on.  34,700 is 34,700 too many.

This contribution was published on UOttawa on July 13, 2020

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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