Americans top the list of ‘inadmissible’ migrants to Canada

A smaller proportion of the total number of visitors to Canada, about 50 percent compared to the two-thirds of all visitors who are American:

Almost 267,500 migrants were deemed to be inadmissible to Canada between 2007 to 2016, most of them due to criminal convictions, according to Canadian border officials.

The 267,449 foreign nationals included convicted criminals, human rights violators and terrorists identified by Canada Border Services Agency, which is tasked with getting them out of the country afterwards.

These individuals had come to Canada as permanent residents, visa students, foreign workers, visitors or refugees. While for some, their previous records went undetected before arrival, others were found to be inadmissible for offences committed while in Canada and ordered to leave.

Border services data obtained under access to information legislation shows that the number of people deemed inadmissible each year has been on a gradual decline from a peak of 9,131 in 2008 to 6,365 in 2016.

Over the decade, Americans topped the list of those deemed inadmissible, with a total of 63,590 being told they had to leave. They were followed by Mexicans (22,104), Hungarians (13,082), Haitians (11,748) and Colombians (10,090).

Immigration experts said it’s not known if the annual decline in the number of inadmissible individuals was a direct result of effective pre-arrival screening procedures, which successfully stop undesirable migrants from coming here in the first place.

However, Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Steven Meurrens said the number of people deemed inadmissible from some countries appeared to fall dramatically after visa requirements were imposed for visitors from those countries.

The number of inadmissible Mexicans, for instance, dropped significantly from 6,739 in 2009 to just 1,041 in 2010. Other requirements such as pre-boarding electronic authorizations and biometric screening also help detect criminals before they get on a plane to come here, said Meurrens.

“We do have a robust screening system. People are checked against terror lists and criminals are caught before they get here,” said Meurrens. “And the majority of the hundreds of millions of people who come to Canada are not involved in crimes.”

In 2016 alone, Canada admitted 296,346 permanent residents, including 58,435 refugees and protected persons. More than half a million people came as temporary residents, including 266,000 international students and 287,117 foreign workers, in addition to more than a million visitors such as tourists here to visit family and friends.

Toronto refugee lawyer Raoul Boulakia said foreign nationals deemed inadmissible for criminality must apply for special permission to re-enter Canada and those who are banned as a security threat must get what’s known as ministerial relief to remain here — a process that takes a minimum of five years.

“The stats do not tell you the whole story. Without the facts, you don’t know how serious or frivolous their crimes are,” he said. “The big issue is this overbreadth of wording and interpretation of the inadmissibility grounds.”

The definition of membership to terrorist groups is broad and border officials have a lot of discretionary power to designate someone inadmissible with that label, said Boulakia, pointing to the case of Sugunanayake Joseph, a grandmother who came to Canada from Sri Lanka after her husband, a Tamil activist, was assassinated in 2005.

Officials associated her husband’s political coalition with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and alleged she was inadmissible because she had supported her late husband in his career and accompanied him to political events, which they said amounted to her complicity in crimes against humanity with the Tigers.

Joseph was ordered deported, but found to be in danger of torture or death in a pre-removal risk assessment if sent back to Sri Lanka. Her case is still in the system. She cannot be given refugee status or permanent residence unless the public safety minister grants her ministerial relief.

“There’s a wide gap in how people are being treated (by border services). Some are prosecuted zealously and others are not,” said Boulakia. “There is a lot of arbitrariness.”

Source: Americans top the list of ‘inadmissible’ migrants to Canada

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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