National security agencies’ relationship with racialized communities marred by a ‘trust gap:’ report

Not surprising and not one easy to reduce. And yes, my experience while in government with respect to the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security was that the information flow tended to be more one-way than a conversation:

The relationship between “racialized” groups and Canada’s national security and intelligence institutions —  like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency  — continues to be bogged down by mistrust, says a new external report prepared for the federal government.

“We frequently heard about the trust gap between the country’s national security institutions and Canadians, and in particular with racialized Canadians,” says the report drafted by the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) — an independent and external body first set up in 2019 to advise the deputy minister of Public Safety and the national security and intelligence community.

“At times, these relations have been marred by mistrust and suspicion, and by errors of judgment by these institutions, which impacted communities have perceived as discriminatory.”

The NS-TAG group, made up of 10 members from legal, civil society and national security backgrounds, warns that the emergence of artificial intelligence and data-driven intelligence poses a threat to racialized communities.

“Systemic biases in Artificial Intelligence (AI) design can have perverse impacts on vulnerable individuals or groups of individuals, notably racialized communities,” they found.

“These biases reflect not only specific flaws in AI programs and organizations using them, but also underlying societal cleavages and inequalities which are then reinforced and potentially deepened.”

CSIS responds

The report, published earlier this week, also calls on national security agencies to have better two-way conversations with communities.

“Too often engagement involves, in practice, government officials offloading a prepared message and failing to listen to the concerns of stakeholders,” says the report.

“Constructive engagement should instead be based on dialogue; government officials should be attuned to the questions and concerns of stakeholders, listen to them, and be prepared and willing to respond.”

The report also calls on agencies like CSIS to engage with communities on an ongoing basis — and not just when there’s a crisis.

The authors pointed to CSIS’s contact with the Iranian-Canadian community after the destruction of Flight PS752 in January 2020 and with the Muslim community following an attack on a mosque in Mississauga, Ont.

“Such engagement was important, but it was prompted by specific incidents. In our view, CSIS will not succeed in building long-term trust with racialized communities as long as its engagement is primarily reactive,” says the report.

CSIS responded to the report’s findings Friday by acknowledging the problem.

“We know that the voices of racialized communities and Indigenous peoples have not been heard as clearly as they should in conversations around policy, legislative and operational deliberations on national security matters,” CSIS wrote in a response published Friday.

“We are committed to changing this.”

Source: National security agencies’ relationship with racialized communities marred by a ‘trust gap:’ report

Canada’s backlog of Nexus applications balloons to nearly 300,000 despite downturn during pandemic

Yet another unfortunate fail. While not personally affected given our cards are valid until 2024, can understand the frustration of those affected:

Canada’s backlog of Nexus applications has ballooned into the hundreds of thousands, despite a sharp downturn in applicants during the pandemic, prompting blowback from frustrated travellers as clogged airports continue to overflow.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) says 295,133Nexus applications have yet to be processed due to ongoing office closures prompted by COVID-19.

Would-be cardholders in the program, which allows pre-approved Canadians to pass through separate, speedy lines when travelling to and from the United States, must be risk-assessed by both the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The American agency reopened its Nexus enrolment centres for applicant interviews on April 19, but centres in Canada remain closed after shuttering in March 2020.

The resulting backlog means some Nexus members are struggling to book sit-downs before their cards expire, as Canadian residents hoping to renew their status can only schedule interviews in fewer than a dozen border community offices where slots are few.

Travelling retirees are among those exasperated by the standstill.

“A lot of snowbirds go to the U.S. frequently. They often go back and forth, and a fair number of them would be Nexus card holders, including myself,” said Jill Wykes, editor of Snowbird Advisor, an online resource for snowbirds.

Wykes questioned why enrolment centres remain closed when many other government offices have been open for months.

“The airports are chaotic, and if you have Nexus you can get through so much more quickly coming and going, whether it’s at the border or the airport,” she said.

“The whole situation is very frustrating, that the government did not anticipate this pent-up demand, which as been anticipated for two years.”

The CBSA said in an e-mail that Canada and the U.S. are in discussions about when to reopen Canadian enrolment centres.

“Although the extent of the backlog in 2019 is not known, I can tell you that the backlog has significantly increased over pre-pandemic levels due to the closing of the enrolment centres in March 2020 for public health reasons,” spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy said.

Meanwhile the Fast program for cross-border commercial truck drivers now sports a backlog of 11,018, the CBSA said.

Jacques Roy, a professor of transport management at HEC Montreal business school, says the backlog is affecting business and leisure travellers. It also adds pressure to airports already struggling with security staff shortages and endless queues.

“I really am having a hard time understanding why nothing was done or processed during that period,” Roy said of the ongoing office closures.

The CBSA said it continues to carry out risk assessments remotely within its standard 30-day timeline for new applicants or those seeking to renew a soon-to-expire card.

However, once both countries have pre-approved the application, “the onus is then on the applicant to schedule an interview at a Nexus/Fast EC (enrolment centre) using the online portal,” the agency said.

It has not set a date for when Canadian enrolment centres will unlock their doors.

Nexus memberships are typically valid for five years, after which they must be renewed. The process involves a risk assessment and a screening interview – for both first-time applicants and long-time card holders – the CBSA said.

Nexus membership declined by 170,814, or nine per cent, to 1.73 million enrollees between 2020 and 2021, according to agency figures.

Between 2018 and 2019, the number of new applications had risen by nearly a third to 262,125. They then plunged to 172,125 in 2020 and 29,705 in 2021. Nonetheless, with enrolment centres shuttered, the pile of partially processed applications continued to mount.

Source: Canada’s backlog of Nexus applications balloons to nearly 300,000 despite downturn during pandemic

How Canada uses personal information collected at the border on immigration applications

Useful overview. Entry/Exit will improve data collection (e.g., visa overstays) and allow for simplification and better client service (e.g., automatic completion of citizenship application residency information):

Since February 2019, the Entry/Exit Program has allowed the Canadian border to collect basic traveller information and share it with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

IRCC uses the information to verify residency requirements for applications for permanent residence, work permits, study permits, and Canadian citizenshipapplications. Some programs require applicants to be in Canada for a certain number of days. For example, in order to apply for citizenship, permanent residents need to have been physically present in Canada for 1,095 days out of the five years prior to the date of their application.

With the Entry/Exit Program, IRCC can inquire about traveller information from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) via the Global Case Management System (GCMS), which is the system IRCC uses to process immigration applications.

What information is available

For now, the Entry/Exit program is only open to travellers to come to Canada by land and air. It is not yet available for marine and rail travel to Canada. The information that IRCC can access through the Entry/Exit program includes:

  • given and family names
  • aliases
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • country of birth
  • country of citizenship
  • passport details
  • date of entry/exit

CBSA stores the information in the GCMS, which IRCC can use as needed to administer the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the Citizenship Act, and the Canadian Passport Order.

How IRCC uses Entry/Exit data

According to the government website, IRCC can use Entry/Exit data to:

  • verify residency requirements in support of applications for grants of citizenship (CIT) or permanent resident cards;
  • verify if a temporary residence applicant may have previously overstayed their allowable period of admission in Canada;
  • assist in an investigation of an individual’s entitlement to a Canadian travel document;
  • verify that sponsors are residing in Canada;
  • verify the residency of spouses and partners under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class;
  • verify whether or not a refugee claimant entered Canada using their travel documents; and
  • support investigations of possible fraud in relation to immigration, citizenship, and passport/travel document programs.

IRCC does not need client consent in order to query traveller entry and exit information. They are allowed to access the information if it is relevant to an IRCC officer’s decision in relation to a specific program. Only IRCC roles that make decisions on applications can access Entry/Exit information in the GCMA.

IRCC officers are not allowed to disclose entry and exit information unless it is necessary to administer the IRPA and is covered under an information-sharing agreement. Any disclosure not covered under a memorandum of understanding or other information-sharing agreement must be governed by CBSA.

As CBSA is the owner of the data, all authorized CBSA employees have access to it.

Travellers can request a copy of their personal travel history through an access to information request under the Privacy Act. To request a correction, travellers can contact the CBSA.

Temporary residence applications

IRCC can request Entry/Exit information for the following application types:

The Entry/Exit data can be used to check whether a foreign national has previously exceeded their authorized period of stay in Canada. The government calls this “overstay monitoring.” It begins when a traveller enters Canada and ends upon their exit. If the applicant has overstayed their visit, an “overstay indicator” will appear as a checked box in the GCMS once queried.

IRCC expects overstay indicators for temporary residents will begin appearing in Entry/Exit search results in November 2022, once a sufficient number of air carriers are on-boarded.

Permanent residence applications

Entry/Exit information is available to IRCC for the following permanent residence application types:

The data can be used to outline the periods of time spent in and outside Canada, and will allow IRCC to see if residence has been maintained. In addition to residency requirements, IRCC may make an Entry/Exit query to investigate misrepresentation, or revocation of Canadian documents.

For family sponsorship applications, Entry/Exit data can be used to determine if a sponsor is residing in Canada.

Citizenship applications

Exit/Exit data can be used in citizenship applications to:

  • verify compliance with physical presence requirements for grants of citizenship;

  • assist in the verification of other requirements, such as, flagging of potential loss of permanent resident status, the need for applicants to submit foreign police certificates, or misrepresentation;

  • verify compliance with physical presence requirements for resumption of citizenship; and

  • assist in cases of revocation of Canadian citizenship.

Source: How Canada uses personal information collected at the border on immigration applications

Pandemic likely to drive a surge in immigration fraud, border agency warns

Not all that surprising:

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to drive an increase in immigration fraud and human smuggling as desperate migrants try to get into Canada, says a strategic intelligence report prepared by the Canada Border Service Agency.

The report warns that economic downturns and increased poverty abroad caused by the pandemic will prompt more people to resort to irregular methods to come to Canada.

“With more people looking to immigrate, there is likely to be an increase in fraud in all immigration streams via the use of fraudulent supporting documentation to bolster visa or permanent resident applications, fraudulently acquired travel documents to be able to board flights to Canada and misrepresentation,” says the report, dated June 2020.

Source: Pandemic likely to drive a surge in immigration fraud, border agency warns

Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Further to the earlier Hill Times story. Having gone through some of the recent reports (still awaiting a few), my general observation is the lower the representation numbers, the longer the reports and the more words describing the various initiatives underway). That being said, their cultures are different from elsewhere in the public service and thus the challenges greater:

A number of organizations in Canada’s security and intelligence establishment, including the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community, the Department of National Defence, and the Canada Border Services Agency have been conducting campaigns to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act—women, Indigenous people, members of a visible minority, and people with a disability—to self-identify, as part of their efforts to improve data collection and hiring practices.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused on diversity and inclusion issues in the security and intelligence community in its most recent annual report.

The report notes that one of the challenges in the security and intelligence committee surrounds voluntary self-identification.

But the report also notes that “self-identification campaigns and internal communications are [a] way organizations try to increase awareness on these issues,” and that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the Department of National Defence (DND) have conducted campaigns to “demystify the self-identification process and encourage employees to self identify.”

The Hill Times reached out to the four organizations noted in the report for more information on how they have done that.

Communications Security Establishment

Diversity and inclusion is an important element in ensuring that the Canadian security and intelligence community can effectively protect Canada, said Ryan Foreman, a media relations representative with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Mr. Foreman outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the CSE to encourage self-identification, including a 2017 push to increase organizational awareness of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and to explain how a diverse workforce strengthens CSE’s ability to deliver on its mandate.

“This included providing data to managers, and developing strategies to attract job applicants from underrepresented groups,” said Mr. Foreman, who also noted that CSE launched a self-identification campaign called “Show us what CSE is made of,” which was designed to encourage employees to self-identify.

“The messaging for this campaign communicated the importance of employment equity data and its impact on other organizational initiatives, such as recruitment and training,” said Mr. Foreman. “Both the 2017 initiative and the self-identification campaign started in 2018 are on-going.”

Canadian Security and Intelligence Community

“As Canada’s security and intelligence service, it is critical that CSIS reflects the communities it protects, wrote CSIS spokesperson John Townsend in an email to The Hill Times. “To this end, CSIS has implemented an ongoing internal communications campaign to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act to self-identify.”

“The campaign includes an annual Employment Equity questionnaire among other tools to advise employees on the importance of self-identification.”

Ninety per cent of CSIS employees have engaged with these tools, according to Mr. Townsend.

“The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished but our commitment is steadfast and our efforts continue,” wrote Mr. Townsend.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Staff at the Department of National Defence and members of Canadian Armed Forces have returned self-identification forms at a greater rate this year than in the past, thanks to organizational efforts to spread the word about the importance of self-identification, according to Major Smyth, spokesperson for DND.

The Employment Equity Act requires that every member be provided the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated group, but it remains voluntary to do so.

As such, employment equity representation rates are based on a voluntary process and may not represent the actual employment equity representation in CAF, according to Mr. Smyth.

“Overall, the CAF continues to improve upon its self-identification return rates,” said Mr. Smyth. “The first part of the self-identification form is a personal identification portion. For this portion, the regular force achieved its highest return rate yet with 97.5 per cent of [members] having had the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated employment equity group.”

“While the return rates are lower in the primary reserve units, the CAF saw an overall increase in self-identification as designated group members from both regular force and primary reserve members compared to 2017/18.”

“Current representation rates, as of July 2020, for the regular force and the primary reserves combined, were as follows: women, 16 per cent; visible minorities, 9.3 per cent; and Indigenous Peoples, 2.8 per cent.”

DND/CAF did not identify the representation of persons with disabilities as of July 2020 in their response to The Hill Times.

The CAF works closely with Statistics Canada to ensure that “labour market data they provide, and upon which the CAF sets its employment equity representation rate goals, is reflective of the unique occupations and employment criteria of the CAF.”

“DND/CAF is committed to reflecting the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Both long and short term goals have been created, based on the labour market analysis provided by Statistics Canada. We review our progress regularly to ensure that we are always working towards increasing representation rates,” said Mr. Smyth.”

Canadian Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency’s campaign encouraging self-identification began in 2017 and was repeated in 2018, according to Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson with the agency.

“They stressed the importance of understanding our workforce composition and reinforced that employee information would be protected. Recognizing that the Agency’s manual process might be contributing to response rates of 61 per cent, an online form was piloted with success in 2019 and was set to be launched in March 2020 as part of our ‘Your Voice Matters’ campaign. It has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts are focused on how best to virtually promote self-identification,” she said.

Employment Equity Act ‘has served Canada and the public service well,’ says expert

Andrew Griffith, who is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad, told The Hill Times that the Employment Equity Act has served Canada and the public service well, and that the diversity of virtually every group has increased since the act was introduced.

“So the basic structure of the act, I think, has worked in the reporting structure and the data collection, and the publicity that comes with the results,” said Mr. Griffith, who is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute.

“But if you re-open the act, I’m just not sure that it’s worth all that much effort, time, and invariable divisiveness and controversies that it will raise,” said Mr. Griffith. “I’m thinking that if you want to use government time wisely, it would be more effective, I would think, [to look] at specific anti-racism initiatives and look at some of the specific barriers rather than a wholesale of revision of the act, because I think the challenge is less with the act and more with some of the practical stuff.”

Source: Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Case of woman wrongly accused of spying for Russia requires ministerial review, intelligence expert says

Pretty fundamental mix-up along with unwillingness to consider an error, until forced by the courts. Wark’s point regarding the systemic weaknesses sting:

Most Canadians seem to have an extraordinary — sometimes naive — faith that if they tell the truth, their government will do the right thing, come to the right conclusion, or make the right decision.

It is one of those charming, but also maybe alarming aspects of our character.

David and Elena Crenna certainly fell into that category at the beginning of their bizarre six-year legal odyssey that saw the Canada Border Services Agency’s war crimes investigation unit accuse Elena, a former Russian translator, of being a post-Cold War spy.

The Liberal government quietly abandoned its case against her last month after a Federal Court judge essentially challenged justice department lawyers and border agency officials to read the legal and dictionary definition of espionage.

“I am unable to reasonably find any reason to believe the applicant was engaged in anything secret, clandestine, surreptitious or covert,” Federal Court Justice Henry Brown ruled in April.

Crenna had previously been deemed inadmissible to Canada by an immigration adjudicator who sided with a Canadian Border Agency assessment that concluded she helped the Russian security service spy.

Governments talk a lot today fighting disinformation, particularly Russian and Chinese online attacks and smears, but abjectly fail to appreciate that lying to sow discord and lying to save one’s skin is a time-honoured, well-honed tradition of spies, according to one of Canada’s leading intelligence experts.

More that, there is a dearth of institutional knowledge, understanding and significantly an appreciation of recent history within federal officialdom, said Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa.

He is withering in his criticism of Crenna’s case, and frightened by its implications.

‘A ruthless waste of time’

“This isn’t just a minor case of bureaucracy gone slightly astray,” Wark said in an interview. “I think it is a major case of a bureaucracy that just didn’t know how to operate in the face of these kinds of threats. We need to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.”

The federal case against Elena Crenna — which Wark described as “a ruthless waste of time” — rested on the dubious word of a now-dead Russian defector.

While doing translation and marketing for a humanitarian housing project in Tver, Russia, the former Elena Filatova said she was approached by an agent of SVR (formerly known as the KGB and later the FSB) who wanted to know what the Canadians were doing.

It is a major case of a bureaucracy that just didn’t know how to operate in the face of these kinds of threats. We need to be able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.– Wesley Wark, one of Canada’s top intelligence experts

She did, with the full knowledge and support of her boss, now husband, David Crenna, who said he and Elena were obliged to be transparent with Russian authorities to avoid having the translation project shut down. The pair eventually married in 2012.

Elena Crenna told CBC News in the spring that she never passed along secret information about project she was working on, and did not covertly gather intelligence.

Years later, a FSB defector wrote a tell-all book that alleged a Canadian disarmament program in the 1990s had been penetrated by Russian intelligence.

Without naming either David or Elena Crenna, Sergei Tretyakov claimed Russian intelligence had set a “honey trap” to collect information about the project, referring to the relationship that developed between the Crennas.(In intelligence circles, a honey trap is an operation that uses sex or romantic entanglements to trick or blackmail targets into giving up information.)

Canadian and American intelligence officials, including CSIS and the FBI, interviewed the couple and found their version of events credible.

It was only when Canadian immigration officials were about to allow Elena to stay permanently in the country that border services objected using the information the Crennas had truthfully offered up to the agency in interviews.

It was “Kafkaesque,” said Wark, who believes it is imperative that the agency not be allowed to simply walk away from the case without some kind of introspection and review.

“This is more than just a human tragedy because I think the case reveals a lack of expertise within CBSA, which is troubling given that CBSA is responsible for border security risk management, and responsible for administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,” he said. “I think it reveals some considerable dysfunction among the elements of the Canadian government.”

Wark said it demonstrates “a very significant lack of understanding about the nature of espionage threats” and complete “lack of understanding of the historical context that they were looking at in this particular case.”The threats in today’s world are too serious and complex for border services to make mistakes of this kind in the future, he said.

Wark is calling on Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to institute a review of how the case was handled. Failing that, he is recommending that the National Security Intelligence Review Agency or even the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians look at what happened.

Canada Border Services has routinely declined comment on the case, citing privacy.

For his part, David Crenna doesn’t want to see all of the agency turned upside down — just the war crimes unit that initiated the case against his wife.

The federal government must ensure that section of the agency is “equipped and trained and capable of doing the kind of national security job” that is expected of it, he said.

Federal officials fell for allegations ‘hook, line and sinker’

To watch federal officials “swallow hook, line and sinker” the narrative of a Russian defector trained in disinformation was disheartening and somewhat frightening, he said.

“Essentially, we thought this being Canada that if we told the truth and co-operated, they would eventually come to the conclusion that we were telling the truth,” said David Crenna, who must now go through all of the federal paperwork for his wife to be readmitted to Canada.

She has been stuck in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic where she had been awaiting the results of the court case.

There is no indication when Elena Crenna will be allowed to return.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/russian-spy-case-1.5678875

PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

Of note. Yet another initiative without apparent follow-up.

Although somewhat dated, this overall picture is unlikely to have changed significantly (in process of requesting updated reports for the CF (non-civilian), RCMP (non-civilian), CSIS and CSE as not covered in the TBS report):


The federal government still has “much work to be done” on addressing diversity and inclusion issues within its intelligence and security apparatus, according to a recent parliamentary committee report, with one leading intelligence expert suggesting more senior leadership within the Privy Council Office with “power and clout” is needed to oversee the problem—and questioning why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s launch of the “Tiger Team” in 2017 meant to address diversity and inclusion issues hasn’t met since July 2018.

In their lengthy 2019 annual report, which was tabled in Parliament only a few days before the nation-wide COVID-19 lockdown began in March, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused considerable attention on the issue of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.

The review was conducted for several reasons, according to the report, most importantly because “challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion persist in the security and intelligence community even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.”

“These issues are particularly important for organizations responsible for protecting the national security of Canada and the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”

The report also notes that the “Tiger Team” established in 2017, created “with the stated aim of ‘exploring, advancing and implementing joint efforts to learn from one another and share best practices to enhance diversity and inclusion within and across [their] organizations through a variety of activities and initiatives,’” has not met since July 2018.

In January 2017, The leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canadian Border Services Agency, CSIS, Canadian Security Establishment, Department of National Defense and the RCMP established the Tiger Team.

National security expert Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Hill Times that the initiative to create a Tiger Team was a product of a push by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) in late 2016, and ultimately resulted from a meeting Mr. Trudeau requested with the heads of agencies in the security and intelligence community as well as with the Privy Council Office.

“Sadly, the tigers seem ultimately to have gone to sleep,” according to Prof. Wark’s April 2020 working paper addressing the NSICOP’s findings. “It is time, perhaps, for the prime minister to crack the whip again.”

“This kind of Tiger Team concept moved into the lane of deliverology, in the sense that it was overseen by the deputy secretary to the cabinet, but I’m not sure that was the original idea—that’s just where it ended up in terms of maintaining some momentum and producing reports for a period of time,” according to Prof. Wark.

When it comes to the specifics of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, it was “probably a mistake to move it into that lane or allow it to be moved into that lane,” said Prof. Wark.

“If an initiative of this kind was going to be sustained and picked up by all the different elements of the security and intelligence community, it needed to be overseen by senior leadership in the PCO [outside] of the deliverology mechanism,” said Prof. Wark. “In other words, it should have been taken up as a priority by the national and security and intelligence advisor, and it’s that senior officer in PCO who would have the power and clout to really make sure that something significant happened in this way.”

“I don’t understand why the national security and intelligence adviser himself did not take this up, and the committee of parliamentarians notes that although it doesn’t attach any explicit criticism to this, the whole Tiger Team effort obviously just faded away all together after a period of time,” said Prof. Wark.

The deputy secretary to the cabinet resides within the PCO, underneath the Clerk, and the national security and intelligence advisor is a very senior deputy minister position that ranks almost as an equivalent position to the clerk of the Privy Council, according to Prof. Wark.

According to PCO spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold, the work of the Tiger Team is ongoing, and currently chaired by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“The Government of Canada appreciates the work undertaken by [NSICOP],” according to Mr. Bujold, [and] sees diversity and inclusion as an important means to making its national security and intelligence community even more effective in protecting Canadians,” according to Mr. Bujold in an emailed statement to The Hill Times.

“We have been working for a number of years to improve diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community. This is critical, not just in terms of better representing Canadian communities, but in making security and intelligence agencies more effective at doing their job.”

‘Diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations’

Mr. McGuinty, the committee’s chair, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement to The Hill Times, the executive director of the committee, Rennie Marcoux, wrote that although the report did not make any findings or recommendations as to the national security and intelligence adviser’s role within the Tiger Team, the committee recognizes the merit of the community approach to address diversity and inclusion issues—and that its recommendations reinforce the value of the coordinated effort.

“The security and intelligence community is best placed to determine which individual or office is best suited to lead or direct this work,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

In its conclusions, the report notes that “building diverse and inclusive workforces is essential to the effectiveness of the security and intelligence community.”

When asked to expand, Ms. Marcoux noted that in addition to the “well-documented” benefits of a diverse workplace and inclusive workforce across a large body of research, as well as the committee’s belief that Canada’s public service should reflect the population it serves, “a more diverse workforce ensures that organizations are benefitting from the broad range of perspectives and talent that Canada has to offer.”

“Finally, the committee notes that diversity is particularly important inside security and intelligence organizations because it allows them to leverage language skills, community contacts and cultural competencies, and protects against groupthink mindsets that permeate more homogeneous organizations,” according to Ms. Marcoux.

Tim McSorley, national coordinator with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, told The Hill Times that “there needs to be a level of accountability and transparency in terms of what the words on paper mean.”

“I think a big question is that we see, year-after-year, whether it’s three-year plans or five-year plans or in line with Treasury Board recommendations, it seems like there’s a plan and then the next plan seems to repeat very similar issues around the importance of lowering barriers [around] increasing diversity and inclusion within these organizations,” said Mr. McSorley. “While it does seem that the numbers have gotten slightly better over the last 10 or 11 years, it doesn’t seem like anything new is coming out, it seems that it remains the same question each time a new plan is put together.”

“So what are they doing on the ground to actually change and to increase diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community,” said Mr. McSorley. “Who is accountable if they don’t meet those goals, and what kind of consequences are there?”

When asked about the Tiger Team, Mr. McSorley said that looking at some of the critiques within the report, the fact that it was concentrated solely of members from HR departments was part of the problem.

According to the report, the committee noted several shortcomings with this initiative, including the lack of specific objectives for diversity and inclusion as well as the development of a performance measurement framework to assess the success of its initiatives.

“The representatives from each organization were all from human resources departments and organizations did not seek out members of employment equity groups for membership or participation on the Tiger Team,” according to the report. “[Throughout] its discussions, the Tiger Team focused on short-term initiatives without considering systemic challenges raised in various organization-specific studies or class-action lawsuits (the CAF and the RCMP), such as workplace culture and discrimination.”

‘Things won’t change on their own’

The Abella Commission, which led to the creation of the Employment Equity Act, unfolded in 1984, said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of the equality program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“The first Employment Equity Act was in 1986. The current [act] is 25 years old, and that act calls for serious accountability measures, serious long-term and short-term goal setting, serious monitoring and reviews for organization accountability,” said Ms. Aviv.

“So we always need to be optimistic and hopeful and try to move things forward, but we’ve also been working on these issues for a very long time,” said Ms. Aviv. “There are clear obligations there, obligations that, according to this report, have simply not been met.”

Ms. Aviv said she believes that there is a notion that things are getting better, they get better on their own, and that patience is required to change organizational culture.

“But if you actually look at the trajectory and the amount of time that’s passed, and the amount of harm that’s been done to people in these organizations, and the ill-effect it’s having on the effectiveness of the organizations themselves, then you understand that things won’t change on their own,” said Ms. Aviv.

According to RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin, the RCMP has implemented a number of initiatives to increase the ratio of women, visible minorities, and Indigenous people within their ranks, with objectives to include 30 per cent women, 20 per cent of people from visible minority groups, and 10 per cent Indigenous people.

“We intend to reach these goals through a targeted approach to recruiting, using advertising and marketing to position the RCMP as the employer of choice to people who may not have considered a career in policing,” according to Ms. Fortin. “The RCMP is committed to inclusiveness and diversity of all types within the organization. We believe that the more diverse we are when it comes to gender, ethnic background, religion or sexual orientation, the better we are able to serve all Canadians.”

According to DND spokesperson Major T.A. Smyth, “DND and the CAF place unprecedented emphasis on ensuring diversity and gender equality in military human resource management as part of efforts to strengthen the operational force and to position DND and the CAF as inclusive organizations. Diversity is viewed as a source of strength and flexibility to build the capacity of the CAF and the civilian workforce.”

“DND and the CAF are working with other government departments as a community and considering the findings and recommendations of this report to inform future decision making,” according to Mr. Smyth. “Various experiences, knowledge, and skillsets contribute to our operational effectiveness. By increasing the representativeness of our Forces and our civilian personnel to reflect Canadian society, diversity enables DND and CAF to be forward-looking, resilient, and relevant.”

—-

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians made the following recommendations in it’s 2019 Annual Report, released in March 2020:

1. The committee conduct a retrospective review in three to five years to assess the security and intelligence community’s progress in achieving and implementing its diversity goals and inclusion initiatives.

2. The security and intelligence community adopt a consistent and transparent approach to planning and monitoring of employment equity and diversity goals, and conduct regular reviews of their employment policies and practices.

3. The security and intelligence community improve the robustness of its data collection and analysis, including GBA+ assessments of internal staffing and promotion policies and clustering analyses of the workforce.

4. The security and intelligence community develop a common performance measurement framework, and strengthen accountability for diversity and inclusion through meaningful and measurable performance indicators for executives and managers across all organizations.

Source: PM’s ‘Tiger Team’ meant to address diversity, inclusion in Canada’s national intelligence and security community hasn’t met since 2018

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

Overall, pretty devastating report.

One aspect that I found particularly of interest is that the numbers have largely remained the same over the past three years. Unfortunately, the OAG report did not include earlier years in its analysis:

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.”

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

ICYMI: The number of detainees held in Canada’s immigration holding centres is declining amid COVID-19 fears

Of note, and addressing some of the concerns:

Dozens of people who were held in Canada’s immigration detention facilities have been released over the last week as advocates and lawyers have called for their release amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data obtained from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by Global News, the total number of immigration detainees held in all three of Canada’s immigration holding centres dropped to 64 as of April 1 from 98 on March 25.

There are three immigration holding centres in Canada: one in Laval, Que., one in Toronto, and one in Surrey, B.C. However, hundreds of immigration detainees are held in provincial jails across the country — sometimes indefinitely.

The Toronto immigration holding centre, which has 198 beds, had the biggest drop in detainees, dropping to 21 detainees on April 1 from 41 on March 25. The Laval centre, which has 109 beds, went from 48 detainees to 35. And the Surrey centre went from having nine to eight in that timespan. CBSA said that no minors were in the facilities on those dates.

Earlier this week, TVO reported that an employee at the Toronto centre tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in isolation since March 18. So far, no detainees are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.

A number of legal and advocacy groups have been calling for the release of people in immigration detention “unless they pose a danger to the public.” Canada’s immigration law allows CBSA officers to detain foreign nationals if they believe the person is unlikely to appear for an immigration proceeding like a hearing, if the person is deemed a threat to public safety, or if the person’s identity is under question.

Jenny Jeanes, the detention coordinator with Action Refugies, an NGO that works with people detained in the Laval immigration holding centre, said that she’s pleased that people are being released, and that the COVID-19 pandemic makes the situation even more urgent. She said that even more detainees at Laval have been released since April 1.

“Releases are picking up. And we were so relieved that after asking for a few weeks, finally some of the [detained] fathers who were separated from their families were released this week on an expedited basis,” Jeanes said in a phone interview.

“If people are released, it’s either because whatever issues there were that were leading them to be detained are resolved. So that’s been the case for some people. Some people were released in the past days because their identity was confirmed, (and) they were able to get the information that the CBSA needed to confirm their identity.”

Last month, detainees at the Laval centre started a hunger strike after sending a petition to the federal ministers of public safety and immigration, asking to be released from the centre over fears of contracting the virus in the facility.

Jeanes said that the hunger strike there was suspended earlier this week “but the distress of those inside has not ended.” Though her group previously conducted visits and work inside the centre multiple times a week, she and her colleagues recently moved to conducting their work remotely because of COVID-19, and have been communicating with Laval detainees over the phone.

“I’ve had people hang up in tears, sobbing with me on the phone this week because they see other people getting released. But they know that that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be released and they’re scared,” Jeanes said.

“At the best of times, detention can create anxiety, depression and other negative mental health effects. And I think right now, everybody, we’re all under strain. And so imagine that you’re in detention. It’s that much worse.”

“As this situation is fluid and evolving rapidly, the CBSA is continuing to closely monitor and assess the state of those in detention. All options are being considered at this time,” a CBSA spokesperson said in an email. “As always, should a detainee in CBSA care be seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention, they would be referred to the appropriate local or emergency health authority for medical assessment without delay.”

Last week, Legal Aid Ontario said on its website that it was expanding its detention review hearing representation services for immigration detainees.

“We are pleased that in many cases CBSA is cooperating with detainees and their counsel to develop viable safe release plans; we think all involved recognize the personal and public health issues raised by detention during a pandemic,” Alyssa Manning, manager of Legal Aid Ontario’s immigration detention duty counsel project, said in a statement to Global News.

According to CBSA data, around 7,706 people were held in immigration holding centres in Canada last year, and around 2,249 people were detained by CBSA and held in provincial jails. The average time spent in detention was around 12 days.

Coronavirus outbreak: UN launches global appeal for $2 billion in aid to fight COVID-19

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why civil servants are still going into work at places like immigration detention facilities when that could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 to those held in the facilities and among employees and their families.

“We’re going to continue to ensure that essential services get done. Wherever possible, civil servants are encouraged to work remotely from home. We know there are significant things that need to be worked on to deliver for Canadians, to keep Canadians safe at this particular time,” Trudeau said.

When asked whether the federal government would be releasing non-violent offenders in general, Trudeau said that “action has been taken” and that the government has been working with Corrections Canada and “detention facilities of all types” to reduce the vulnerability to the spread of COVID-19.

“We continue to look at other measures that can be taken and we will take those measures in due course.”

Source: The number of detainees held in Canada’s immigration holding centres is declining amid COVID-19 fears

Critics question why Canada’s border officers need bulletproof vests to work with migrants

I would have more confidence in CBSA’s policy rationale and justification had they not earlier made officers within Canadian airports wear bullet proof vests within the arrivals area security envelope (i.e. people who have already passed departure security and flown to Canada):

Canada’s border-security agency will soon require all border-security officers working with detained migrants to wear defensive gear that includes batons, pepper spray and bulletproof vests — a policy that is drawing concern over a perceived “criminalization” of asylum seekers.

A new national policy on uniforms was adopted internally last year after the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) began moving what it deems “higher-risk immigration detainees” from provincial jails, where they were being held for security purposes, into one of the agency’s three “immigration holding centres.”

The agency decided all officers working in these centres must be outfitted in protective and defensive equipment to ensure a “common operational approach” in light of the fact that these migrants previously were held in jails, according to a briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press through access-to-information law.

“This will require greater CBSA officer presence in managing detainee populations at the IHCs, including the ability to de-escalate and intervene physically if necessary,” the briefing note says.

“Ensuring that IEOs [inland enforcement officers] wear their defensive equipment will enable officers to protect/defend themselves and others if necessary in the IHC.”

The defensive gear they are to wear includes steel-toed boots, “soft body armour,” a defensive baton, pepper spray and handcuffs. They will not carry firearms.

The changes have sparked concern this will create an environment within immigration detention centres akin to jail conditions and encourage the perception that detained migrants in Canada, including some children, are criminals worthy of punishment.

Same tools as maximum-security facilities

A group of doctors, lawyers, legal scholars and human rights organizations wrote two letters last year to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale urging him to cancel the policy — calls they say have been ignored.

“We applaud your efforts to reduce the number of immigration detainees held in provincial jails. But raising security measures in an administrative detention centre to mirror those of a criminal institution defeats the purpose of transferring immigration detainees from jails to IHCs,” says one letter, dated June 22, 2018.

“The proposed policy would arm CBSA officers with some of the same tools as correctional officers in maximum-security facilities … [which] is clearly disproportionate to any potential risk and is not warranted.”

Concerns have also been raised internally by the union that represents the security officers themselves, who are worried about the increased risks of having weapons in the mix if a high-risk situation or confrontation does arise.

Anthony Navaneelan, a lawyer with Legal Aid Ontario who also works with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said it’s not every day the border-security union and migrant-advocacy groups agree.

Wearing defensive gear when dealing with refugees is “inappropriate and unnecessary,” Navaneelan said.

He pointed to a 2012 report by the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, that said detention of migrants on the grounds of their irregular status should “under no circumstance be of a punitive nature” and should never involve prison-like conditions or environments.

“The idea of getting them out of jails is to recognize the fact that it can re-traumatize refugee claimants to be putting them in detention to begin with when they’ve committed no crime,” Navaneelan said.

“Also in terms of necessity, CBSA hasn’t identified for us any incidents that have happened at the immigration holding centres that would warrant these types of measures. Certainly I’d, at best, call this a proactive measure in anticipation of some future concern … but we certainly think escalating or creating an environment where officers are equipped with these types of measures is almost a solution in search of a problem.”

‘Balance’ between safety of officers and detainees

In a statement, CBSA spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy said the agency’s operating procedures say officers “must” wear the protective and defensive equipment issued to them while on duty.

The decision to equip officers working in migrant detention centres with uniforms and defensive gear was made “to ensure national alignment of CBSA standards for its operations and is consistent with practices implemented domestically and internationally as it relates to detention,” Purdy said.

As for the concerns raised by the lawyers, doctors, human-rights groups and the officers’ union, CBSA “ensured that there is a balance reflected between the safety and security of officers and other detainees,” Purdy added.

Asylum seekers in Canada can be detained for a number of reasons, including if CBSA officers have reason to believe they would be deemed inadmissible on grounds of security, criminality or records of violating human or international rights themselves.

A migrant also can be detained simply if a CBSA officer believes the person might be a no-show for his or her refugee-determination hearing. The vast majority of migrants detained by Canada are held for this reason, according to government statistics posted online. Last year, 81 per cent of detained migrants were held because they were deemed unlikely to appear for their hearings, including 40 children, most of whom were travelling with adults.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization was assured that migrants detained for administrative reasons such as this would be separated from those suspected of criminality when held in Canadian detention centres.

She questioned why CBSA officers will be required to wear defensive gear in all areas of these centres, rather than only in wings where migrants suspected of being security or criminal threats are being held.

She also echoed concerns that wearing this gear is akin to treating refugees like criminals

“The CBSA should very much reduce the criminalization of those people who are detained,” Dench said.

Source: Critics question why Canada’s border officers need bulletproof vests to work with migrants