Revealed: how Canada border agency tried to conceal Chinese immigration mega-fraud files from tax collectors

More good reporting from Ian Young of SCMP:

Last year, Canadian tax collectors and border officers were hailing their cooperation on the biggest immigration fraud case in Canadian history – that of unlicensed consultant Xun “Sunny” Wang, who helped Chinese millionaires fabricate evidence needed to maintain residency and obtain citizenship in Canada.

“The CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] works closely with other law enforcement agencies and departments, including the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency], to help maintain the integrity of the tax system,” said Elvis Dutra, Assistant Director of Criminal Investigations for the CRA, in a press release about the sentencing of Wang’s staff for their role in the scam. “Tax evasion costs all of us,” Dutra added.

But in contrast to that depiction, a 2013 court ruling reveals how the CBSA resisted the CRA, and tried to conceal the vast haul of evidence about Wang and his wealthy clients, hundreds of whom have since been blacklisted from the country for fraudulent behaviour.

The failed effort to impede the tax collectors is described in a judgment by Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen; listed as the applicant in pursuit of the files in the Supreme Court of British Columbia is the CRA, while the CBSA is listed as a respondent alongside Wang himself and his firm, New Can Consultants.

Cullen’s April 8, 2013, ruling describes the respondents attempting to withhold from the CRA 90 boxes of files and 18 computers that were seized from Wang by the CBSA in 2012 raids. The CRA’s demand for the material was an invasion of privacy, the respondents said, and the tax agents should be required to demonstrate probable grounds for suspicion of an offence – but not based on the contents of the actual documents being sought.

The respondents also offered an alternative argument – that handing over the files would amount to a breach of a sealing order imposed on “records pertaining to [the] search warrant”.

Cullen was dismissive.

“I conclude that the CRA is not obliged to demonstrate the existence of reasonable and probable grounds to be permitted to examine the materials seized by the CBSA pursuant to a valid warrant. Nor do I find that the provision of information from CBSA to CRA implicates a reasonable expectation of privacy on the part of the respondents in the circumstances.”

Cullen also said the sealing order on the search warrant did not cover the actual material seized in the searches, which were conducted on Wang’s home and offices on April 17, 2012. “It is apparent from reading the sealing order that what it refers to is ‘the records’ comprising the basis for obtaining the search warrant and the search warrant itself, not the fruits of the search,” he said, as he ordered the CBSA and Wang to relinquish the files to the CRA within 14 days.


‘Protecting taxpayer information’

In response to questions lodged separately with the CRA and CBSA, the agencies issued a joint statement to the SCMP, saying that “the opposition of an action does not reflect on the level of cooperation between the two agencies.”

“Federal partners must exercise due diligence when exchanging information with each other, and ensure they do so in accordance with the legislation and policies in place,” the response said. “At times, requests for information exchanges will not be covered by these policies and as such, could be subject to specific rules or require that requests be made to the courts to support transparency and to protect taxpayer information.”

It added: “In cases in which another Government Department or entity are seeking access to evidence seized through a warrant execution it must apply for a court order to obtain copies.”

In a response to a follow-up question, the CRA refused to describe what actions it was taking against Wang’s clients, saying “the CRA does not comment on other compliance actions related to this case that it may or may not be undertaking”.

However, a large number of possible tax offences are outlined in court cases and immigration hearings resulting from the demise of Wang’s scam (Wang was sentenced to seven years’ jail in 2015 but was freed late last year after serving a third of his time).

“In fact, 146 [of Wang’s] clients received a total of almost C$188,000 in Working Income Tax Benefits meant for working taxpayers with low incomes,” wrote immigration tribunal panellist Susy Kim in a November 2017 ruling, that imposed an exclusion order against Wang’s client Rui Zhang, husband Zhe Li and their minor son.

Other cases involving Wang’s clients feature immigration tribunalists loudly flagging a core problem – the clients’ failure to properly declare worldwide income.

One such client was Ying Wang, who was deemed “vague and evasive” about her millionaire husband Pi Long Sun’s business activities and earnings in China.

Sun’s “nominal income tax returns in Canada” did not represent his global income” and “he was evasive about his actual income,” wrote tribunalist Craig Costantino in a 2017 ruling that the couple be excluded from Canada for five years. “On a balance of probabilities, Mr Sun was not reporting his worldwide income to the Canada Revenue Agency,” Costantino added.

Another Wang client – whose exclusion order was overturned last year, and who the SCMP has therefore decided not to name – lived in a C$10million Vancouver mansion, on which he was paying a C$2 million mortgage on his son’s behalf. But he too was deemed to have filed “only nominal” tax returns in Canada.

“[These] I find do not represent his global income. I find that he was evasive about his actual income,” wrote the tribunalist. “I find that it is clear that his business activities in China generate significant income as nothing he or his family have done in Canada can account for the value of their properties in Canada, let alone the C$6 million worth of assets that the appellant stated he currently holds in China.”

Current and former CRA auditors have previously complained to the SCMP about a historical lack of cooperation from immigration officials. CBSA was carved off from the immigration department and other agencies in 2003.

In 2016, one former veteran auditor, who acted as a go-between for the SCMP and a current auditor, said “there was/is no cooperation between CRA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada [the former name of Immigration and Refugees Canada] that we are aware of.

“If there is, then a memorandum of understanding would have to exist. There may in fact be one – but no one I talked to knows of it,” the ex-auditor said. “And even if there is then you have to go through an intergovernmental affairs officer to get anything – red tape and time. There is no bulk data that we ever knew of, no database easily accessible by an auditor.”

Both the current and former auditor requested anonymity to discuss CRA matters without authorisation.

This month, the SCMP reported that 860 of Wang’s clients had already either lost immigration status – resulting in expulsion and five-year bans from entering the country – or been reported for inadmissibility. The CBC has separately reported that more than 200 others face the potential loss of their Canadian citizenship.

Source: Revealed: how Canada border agency tried to conceal Chinese immigration mega-fraud files from tax collectors

Asylum-seeker surge at Quebec border choking Canada’s refugee system, data show

Good in-depth analysis of the numbers:

The wait time for a refugee claim hearing in Canada increased more than a third over the past two years, to 19 months, as more than 30,000 asylum seekers arriving via unauthorized border crossings placed significant pressure on the system.

Overwhelmed by the number of migrants, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has only managed to finalize 15 per cent of the 27,674 asylum claims made by people who illegally entered Quebec – where the majority of the crossings took place, mostly at a single location near St. Bernard-de-Lacolle – between February, 2017, and this June.

The resulting backlog has created a growing queue for any and all asylum seekers. Under the Supreme Court’s landmark 1985 Singh decision, all refugee claimants on Canadian soil are entitled to an oral hearing.

Asylum seekers who cross illegally at the U.S.-Canadian border eventually face the same questions as all other refugee claimants: Are they genuine refugees, fearing persecution in their home countries? Data from the IRB show that less than half of the claimants in finalized cases – 1,885 – have been accepted as legitimate refugees in Quebec, significantly lower than the proportion for all refugee cases in Canada.

Canada has only deported a small number of the nearly 30,000 asylum seekers who
illegally entered Quebec through unauthorized border crossings since last year, accord-
ing to statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency.

The majority of border crossers have entered Canada through Quebec, mostly at an
unauthorized port of entry in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle. While a breakdown of adjudicated
cases was not available for Quebec, national statistics paint a picture of a refugee deter-
mination system that has been slow to finalize asylum claims.

But a separate data set from the Canada Border Services Agency shows that only a handful of those who have been denied refugee status have been deported. The CBSA said it had removed just 157 people who entered Quebec through unofficial border crossings since April, 2017 – about one in every 200. It said another 582 are being processed for deportation.

Canada-wide, the CBSA said it has deported 398 of the 32,173 people who crossed into Canada illegally since April, 2017. Of those, 146 were sent back to the U.S., while the rest were deported to 53 other countries, including Haiti (53), Colombia (24), Turkey (19) and Iraq (15).

Refugee lawyer Lorne Waldman said the relatively low number of deportations is simply an indicator of the system.

“It doesn’t surprise me because it takes a while for cases to make their way through the system. So people who came a year ago, if the system works efficiently, they should be at the end of the system and subject to removal if their claims are rejected,” he said.

But the situation at the border has put pressure on Canada’s already-strained refugee determination system. The projected wait time for a refugee claim hearing is currently 19 months, up from 16 in September, 2017, and 14 in September, 2016 – just before the influx of asylum seekers.

Tens of thousands have flooded the Canada-U.S. border since last year. Initially, many of the border crossers were Haitians who had been living in the U.S. under a temporary protected status (TPS) they had been given after the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti. When the Trump administration announced its intention to end the TPS for Haitians, word spread among the community there that they could apply for refugee status in Canada if they headed north and found a way into the country.

But it wasn’t as simple as showing up at the border and claiming asylum. The Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. requires both countries to refuse entry to asylum seekers who arrive at official border crossings, as both countries are considered safe for refugees. However, since the agreement applies only to people who arrive at official points of entry, asylum seekers can avoid being turned away by entering between official border crossings – a loophole thousands have taken advantage of.

This year brought a new wave of asylum seekers in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle: Nigerians travelling on valid U.S. visas. It’s not exactly clear why Nigerians choose to travel on U.S. visas instead of Canadian ones, but Mr. Waldman said the U.S. visa system is seen as more generous than Canada’s. Many of the Nigerian asylum seekers obtain visitor visas and use them to fly into the U.S. They then head north to the Quebec border, cross into Canada and apply for asylum.

Earlier this year, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and senior government officials travelled to Nigeria to raise their visa concerns directly with U.S. officials there. Mr. Hussen said the Nigerian government also pledged to discourage its citizens from claiming asylum in Canada after crossing between official points of entry along the U.S. border.

The IRB has finalized just 4,181 asylum claims made by border crossers in Quebec between February, 2017, and June of this year (more current data were unavailable), of which only 45 per cent – 1,885 – were accepted. Another 1,614 claims were rejected, and 682 were abandoned or withdrawn.

That number of accepted claims is significantly lower than the Canada-wide acceptance rate for all refugee claims. As of June, the IRB had approved 7,831 of 13,687 – 57 per cent – of all processed asylum cases made since Dec. 15, 2012, including claims made by asylum seekers who crossed illegally into Canada. Another 55,567 claims were still pending. A small number of refugee claims made before 2012, when the refugee determination system underwent significant changes, are documented separately.

As a part of the 2018 federal budget, the government invested $72-million in the IRB, which will be used to hire 64 new decision-makers in an effort to improve processing times.

Montreal refugee lawyer Mitchell Goldberg said he is optimistic processing times will start to decrease as the government dedicates more resources to the matter.

The deportation process can take even longer, especially if an asylum seeker chooses to exhaust all their appeal options – a source of concern for the Conservative opposition.

“It’s completely unreasonable for our asylum system to be backlogged for years and then for us to not have a functioning system to remove people who don’t have a legal reason to be in Canada,” said Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel.

However, NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the former Conservative government, in which Ms. Rempel served as a cabinet minister, is also to blame for the delays at the IRB.

“There’s been pressure on the system for many, many years, from the Conservatives to the Liberals. Successive governments have not resourced the IRB accordingly so that they can get the job done,” Ms. Kwan said.

Asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be heard have had to find accommodation, with thousands heading to Toronto, where the city has paid to house them in hotel rooms, dormitories and shelters for the homeless. Ottawa has pledged $50-million to defray the costs incurred by the provinces, with Quebec receiving $36-million, Ontario $11-million and Manitoba $3-million. But Toronto and Ontario have been pressing the federal government to pay much more, with the provincial Progressive Conservative government demanding a reimbursement of $200-million.

Mr. Waldman also said the government must do more to address the IRB delays, as the long wait times serve as a “magnet” for illegitimate asylum claimants who know they can potentially spend years in Canada while their cases linger in the system.

Source: Asylum-seeker surge at Quebec border choking Canada’s refugee system, data show

ICYMI: Canada slammed for ‘culture of secrecy’ over immigration detention

Useful guarding against Canadian smugness:

Canada has come under fire for a lack of transparency in its immigration detention system and its practice of detaining vulnerable groups, including children and those with mental health conditions.

“The lack of independent national and international oversight bodies significantly contributes to the culture of secrecy surrounding the Canadian immigration detention system,” said a report by the Geneva-based Global Detention Project, an international research group that promotes the human rights of migrants in detention.

“There remain critical gaps in public information, including concerning which prisons are in use at any given time for immigration-related reasons.”

Immigration detention in Canada has been in the spotlight over the last two years with a series of deaths of migrants held in facilities for immigration violations. As of last November, the report said at least 16 people have died in immigration detention while in the custody of the Canada Border Services Agency since 2000.

On Wednesday, more than 2,000 Canadian health-care organizations and health-care providers, including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and midwives, signed an open letter calling on Ottawa to stop detaining children and end the Canada-United States bilateral agreement that restricts refugees to seeking asylum in the first country of their arrival.

Although public pressure has prompted Ottawa to implement a new immigration detention framework to decrease the number of long-term detainees, reduce the use of maximum-security jails and expand the use of alternatives to detention, the report said there is no mention of limiting the length of time people are detained, or to establish formal and independent monitoring of detention conditions.

Citing statistics from the border agency, the report said 371 children were detained in the last two years, accompanying their detained parents or guardians, mostly for reasons of identity or because they are considered a flight risk. In other cases, they are separated from detained parents and placed in foster care.

Even when there are no grounds for detention, children may be “housed” in detention at federal immigration holding centres instead of jails. Nevertheless, they would still be housed separately from their fathers because family rooms are restricted to mothers and children, the report noted.

“These de facto child detainees are subject to the same detention conditions as those under formal detention orders. However, often resembling medium security prisons, detention facilities have been described by numerous rights groups as ‘woefully inadequate and unsuited for children,’” said the 39-page report.

“Children in detention with their parents have been ‘invisible’ to the law as they are not officially considered detained and thus cannot benefit from detention review hearings. The only path for considering the best interests of the child in these situations is through review hearings of their parents.”

The Canada Border Services Agency works to ensure that it is exercising its responsibility for detentions to the highest possible standards with regard to physical, mental health and overall well-being of detainees as well as the safety and security of Canadians as the primary consideration, a spokesperson said.

In November, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale issued a ministerial direction to CBSA to, as much as humanly possible, keep children out of detention and keep families together. The ministerial direction makes it clear that the best interests of the child must be given primary consideration.

The border services agency’s new guidelines say every effort should be made to reduce the number of vulnerable persons placed in detention, but the report criticizes the framework, saying it “is not a concrete plan as much as it is a general set of intentions (and) stops short of specifying precisely how the government plans on achieving this goal.”

Source: Canada slammed for ‘culture of secrecy’ over immigration detention

Biggest immigration fraudster in Canadian history left $900K fine unpaid

Not right even if Parole Board was compelled given the law and regulations:

The man imprisoned for committing the biggest immigration scam in Canadian history was released on early parole even though he had not paid more than $900,000 in fines and “minimized his criminal behaviour,” according to a November 2017 Parole Board of Canada decision obtained by CBC News.

The board also noted Xun (Sunny) Wang had transferred all of his assets to his spouse “to avoid the Canada Revenue Agency fines.”

Despite “concerns,” the parole board was compelled to free Wang after he served one-third of his 7-year sentence, because he’s not at risk of committing a violent offence and his behaviour behind bars was “appropriate.”

Wang, 49, was convicted of bringing more than 1,000 people illegally into Canada by falsifying passport entries, faking job offers and supplying them with bogus Canadian home addresses, to thwart immigration requirements.

The tactics made it appear his clients had spent the required two years out of every five in Canada to maintain their permanent residency status.

Instead, many spent most of their time living in China.  ​

At his trial in 2015, the court heard Wang made $10 million through his two immigration-consulting companies, New Can Consulting and Wellong International Investments Ltd.

The Canada Border Services Agency released this picture of passports seized from Xun Wang, as part of an investigation into his immigration fraud scheme. (CBSA)

Wang was sentenced to seven years behind bars minus time served in custody and ordered to pay two fines: $730,837 to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for tax evasion and $187,901.24 for defrauding the federal government — a total of almost $920,000.

Promise to mortgage home

In reviewing his pending release in November, the parole board admonished Wang, stating “you have indicated you do not believe you owe the CRA any money.”

But it noted that when “confronted” on his defiant attitude, Wang indicated he would pay the fines by having his home mortgaged.

Seven months later, a check of Wang’s Richmond, B.C., residence on the province’s land registry website shows no mortgage listed.

The Canada Revenue Agency declined to say if Wang has paid his fine, citing privacy.

Approached outside his home by a T.V. crew from the Radio-Canada investigative program Enquête, Wang refused comment, instead calling Richmond RCMP to complain about the presence of a news camera on his street. The RCMP declined to attend.

‘It’s unfair and an injustice’

The fact that Wang is now a free man infuriates former client Zheng Li (Jenny) Geng, who lives in Vancouver and is facing deportation because Wang was her immigration consultant.

Geng says she had no idea Wang was breaking the law. And she’s surprised he’s now a free man while she faces a pending removal hearing.

“I feel it’s unfair and an injustice,” Geng said through an interpreter. “I’m a little angry because I think if he had paid the penalty, things might not have happened to me.”

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has been conducting an ongoing investigation since Wang’s immigration scam was uncovered, reviewing the cases of his 1,677 former clients.

1,081 ex-clients face removal

To date, the CBSA says:

  • 608 permanent residents have been reported for inadmissibility;
  • 221 who obtained Canadian citizenship could be stripped of their status;
  • 252 others have “lost their status through other process,” including voluntarily giving up their permanent residency or citizenship.

That’s a total of 1,081 of Wang’s ex-clients who face deportation or have already left Canada.

Source: Biggest immigration fraudster in Canadian history left $900K fine unpaid

Border agency reports big drop in number of long-term detainees

Latest numbers:

The number of people being held for more than 90 days in immigration detention centres has declined by almost a third this year over last year, according to statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency.

The figures show that the number of detainees being held for three months or longer dropped by 29.9 per cent in 2016-17 compared with 2015-16. They also show a decline since 2012-13 of 35.3 per cent.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CBC News that it is using federal funding announced last year to expand the use of alternatives to detention.

“The funding received is dedicated to developing and deploying a technology-enabled voice reporting solution that will make it easier for low-risk persons to comply with reporting conditions imposed by CBSA officers or the Immigration and Refugee Board, while living in the community,” a CBSA spokesperson said in an email to CBC.

Detainees are also now locked up an average of 19.5 days, down from 23.1 days last year, according to the agency’s statistics.

Last year, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced $138 million for a new national immigration detention framework, with the aim of creating a more humane system.

Part of the money is being spent on a new immigration holding centre (IHC) in Surrey, B.C., which should open in December 2018. The centre in Laval, Que., is scheduled for completion in 2021. The Toronto holding centre is also being upgraded.

“By July 2018 the Toronto IHC will be equipped to house higher-risk detainees, allowing more individuals in provincial detention facilities to be transferred to the IHC on a case-by-case basis,” CBSA said in the email.

Detention in jails

On any given day in Canada, hundreds of people are detained under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Last year the border agency detained 6,251 people, 32.6 per cent of which were held at non-CBSA facilities such as provincial jails, even though they had not been charged with a crime.

“Detaining people long-term at short-term detention facilities is extremely problematic, and especially when some of the detentions are going on for a very long time, into the years,” said Lorne Waldman, a prominent Toronto immigration and refugee lawyer.

Immigration detainees are sent to provincial jails when they’re high-risk, aren’t close to a holding centre or, in the Vancouver area, held for more than 48 hours.

Source: Border agency reports big drop in number of long-term detainees – Politics – CBC News

Canada border agent detentions of Mexicans surge to highest levels in a decade

While the removal of the visa requirement for Mexicans is the largest factor, the high number of detentions and asylum determination refusals suggest ongoing enforcement of entry regulations:

Detentions of Mexican nationals by Canadian border agents have surged dramatically this year to levels not seen in a decade, new figures obtained by The Canadian Press show.

According to Canada Border Services Agency, the total number of detentions from Jan. 1 into the first week of September hit 2,391 — roughly six times the 411 in all of last year — and equal to the previous five years combined.

“CBSA cannot speculate why the number has increased,” spokesman Barre Campbell said in an email Thursday. “The agency’s role is to apply Canadian law at the border.”

The sharp increase has contributed to a rise in the rate of detentions of all foreign nationals this year. Figures show agents detained 1,032 people each month this year, compared to 877 a month last year and 993 in 2015.

Experts point to two main factors as the most likely cause of the upswing in Mexicans running afoul of border agents in Canada.

Last December, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted a visa requirement for Mexicans coming to this country, making it easier to do so. The result was an immediate jump in detentions.

Additionally, the crackdown on undocumented migrants under U.S. President Donald Trump and his threat to remove deportation protections from those foreigners who entered the States illegally as children — the vast majority Mexicans — may also have prompted many of those affected to look north to Canada.

Scott Bardsley, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, said on Thursday that Canada was working with Mexican officials to monitor migration trends and address any risks.

“Canadian officials have co-operated closely with Mexican counterparts to lay the ground work for the visa lift and ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place,” Bardsley said in an email. “These efforts include measures to identify and deter irregular migration, including bolstering co-operation on travel-document integrity and traveller screening.”

The last time the Mexican detention numbers were anywhere near current levels was in 2008, at 3,301, border agency numbers show. That year also saw the number of Mexicans seeking refugee status in Canada reach record levels.

In response to what they characterized as phoney refugee claims, the former government under then-Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper imposed an onerous visa requirement in 2009 that meant all would-be Mexican visitors had to provide numerous supporting documents.

“We are spending an enormous amount of money on bogus refugee claims,” Harper said at the time. “This is a problem with Canadian refugee law, which encourages bogus claims.”

Harper’s visa decision resulted in an immediate plunge in detentions and asylum claims that lasted until 2015, with a slight uptick happening last year. However, the requirement angered the Mexican government and civil-rights groups in Canada among others, ultimately leading to Trudeau’s reversal of that decision late last year.

Bardsley defended dropping the visa requirement as a boon to bilateral relations, trade, investment and tourism that he said will result in lasting economic benefits for Canada.

Recent Immigration and Refugee Board statistics also show a dramatic increase in asylum requests from Mexicans this year, although the vast majority of such applications are rejected as unfounded.

In 2016, for example, 242 Mexicans applied for refugee status. Almost three times as many — 660 — were recorded in the first seven months of this year alone. The board does not keep statistics of how many people came via the U.S. rather than from Mexico itself.

The law allows the border agents to detain foreign nationals or permanent residents on reasonable suspicion they pose a danger to the public, may go underground, or where identity is in doubt. The CBSA data relates to detentions not detainees and may include a person detained more than once.

Source: Canada border agent detentions of Mexicans surge to highest levels in a decade | Toronto Star

Thousands of refugee cases suspended due to border agency delays

More on ongoing refugee determination delays, beyond IRB unfilled positions:

Despite law that requires all refugee hearings to be heard within 60 days once a claim is initially deemed eligible by an immigration officer, more and more asylum hearings like Ahmad’s have been suspended indefinitely because of delays at the Canada Border Services Agency in issuing clearances of what is known as front-end security screening.

According to the refugee board, only 46 per cent of asylum claims were heard within the statutory timeline in April, far below the 84 per cent mark two years ago.

Failures to observe the scheduling timelines are caused by delays in security clearances, operational limitations or unavailability of interpreters or counsel.

However, the proportion of hearing cancellations due to delays in obtaining a security clearance has ballooned from just 6 per cent two years ago to a peak of 55 per cent in December, meaning more than half of cancelled hearings were due to border officials’ inability to meet timelines for assessing if a claimant poses threats to Canada due to criminal or security concerns.

Although cancellations due to a pending security clearance were down to just 13 per cent in April, cases cancelled due to so-called operational limitations such as unavailability of refugee judges was up to 32 per cent from 8 per cent in 2015 and 13 per cent in 2016.

In the first four months of this year, 1,769 refugee hearings were cancelled because claimants’ security clearances were not ready. The border agency performed 12,997 security checks for refugees in 2015 and 19,449 last year.

“The (former) Conservative government has put in place a system with strict timelines without the resources to meet the timelines,” said Ahmad’s lawyer, Max Berger.

“Lots of claimants are devastated. They are psyched to tell their stories and have their date in (refugee) courts. The hidden cost is the delays in their family reunification.”

The refugee board said the border agency is responsible for informing it that security screening has been completed. The board doesn’t receive the actual security screening report but only a confirmation if a hearing can go ahead.

“Security screening is done to ensure that individuals who might pose a risk to Canada would not be granted protection and could not use the refugee determination process to gain admittance to Canada,” said Line-Alice Guibert-Wolff, a spokesperson for the board.

“In those cases where confirmation of security screening has not been received in time for the initially scheduled hearing, the (refugee board) will remove the hearing from the schedule and set a new date and time for the hearing as soon as feasible upon confirmation of the security screening.”

It is not known how long it takes to schedule a new hearing but claimants often are given a “target” date six months later.

“Front-end securing screening for an individual refugee claimant may take time depending on complexity or requirements for additional research,” said border agency spokesperson Patrizia Giolti.

“While there is no one specific factor that may impact the (security clearance) processing workload and timelines, 2016 has seen a significant increase over the previous year, in the number of asylum claims.”

The agency has started to give the refugee board two weeks’ notice if a screening is expected to be completed in time for a hearing and has brought in additional staff to work over the summer to perform security screening to address the backlog, said Giolti.

Calling the situation a “nightmare,” lawyer Raoul Boulakia said he has had a case where a refugee judge felt there was compelling reasons to grant asylum to a persecuted Afghan journalist and was ready to proceed with a hearing. However, the case was held up without a completed security clearance.

Recently, the refugee board has introduced a “50/50” policy by postponing 50 per cent of all new asylum cases to deal what’s known as legacy cases, which were put on the back-burner after December 2012, when the then Tory government overhauled the system to impose the statutory timeline to expedite the processing of refugee claims.

By delaying the hearings without injecting more resources, Boulakia said the problem is simply snowballing and gets worse down the road.

Source: Thousands of refugee cases suspended due to border agency delays | Toronto Star

ICYMI: ‘They were very persistent’: CBC finds more cash-for-jobs immigration schemes

Good article on one of the fraud schemes, appears largely related to Saskatchewan’s provincial nominee program:

An ongoing court case suggests this sort of thing may have been going on for years in Saskatchewan.

In December 2015, Qi Wang and Yujuan Cui, a couple from White City, Sask. — a bedroom community of Regina — were charged with violating the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for allegedly creating fake job offers or inducing others to do so.

The husband and wife, who now live in Roberts Creek, B.C., are set to stand trial in January for their actions related to hundreds of immigration files in Saskatchewan.

Wang and Cui have been on the radar of immigration authorities since 2008.

In its fact statement filed in court, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) says from 2008 to 2010, the province of Saskatchewan had suspended Wang from using its Immigrant Nominee Program because “he had been offering jobs from Saskatchewan companies that were not in existence and offering positions from a company for which authorization had not been received.”

Then, in 2012, CBSA was tipped off by provincial officials about some more suspicious activity.

During the two-year investigation that followed, from 2012 to 2014, CBSA seized material including “documents containing signature blocks and business header information taped onto job offers as well as documents with the employer’s email address portion cut out or taped over with a new address.”

Investigators allege that Wang and Cui made fake job offers to Chinese nationals, sometimes using non-existent companies. They also theorize that the couple approached and counselled “legitimate Saskatchewan companies to provide fraudulent job offers to Chinese nationals” and promised “to compensate legitimate Saskatchewan companies for providing fraudulent job offers.”

In all, CBSA says the couple “illegally received $600,000 from Chinese nationals” and “paid out approximately $95,000 to seventeen different Saskatchewan business owners.”

In documents seized from the couple, investigators found the names of 1,229 people. The province had received immigration applications from 422 of them.

CBSA found that 27 of those had their applications rejected, but 78 had already become permanent residents.

The court document says “CBSA did not have the capacity to ascertain with certainty the number of applications that were fraudulent.”

Permanent residency marketed as ‘commodity’

None of this is surprising to Raj Sharma, a Calgary immigration lawyer who used to work for the immigration refugee board as a hearing officer.

“Wherever you have this hot economy and favourable immigration climate, you’re gonna see this type of action,” he said.

He said this is precisely the sort of thing they’ve been seeing for years in Alberta.

Sharma said he knows it goes on because he regularly gets calls from people wanting his firm to find them a job in exchange for money — which he says is illegal.

“We respond and say that’s not what we do. But obviously they make that inquiry because there are others who do,” he said.

He said those who are willing to flout the law can command “five to 10 to 100 times more than our fees.”

“Canadian residency is a sought-after commodity and an asset,” he said.

He insisted in order to stop people from exploiting that fact, enforcement needs to be tougher and the rules need to be strengthened.

He said that’s especially so in Saskatchewan, where the program “is looser and more generous than Alberta.”

When asked about CBC’s Vstar investigation, the Saskatchewan premier’s office responded with a brief written statement, saying, “Saskatchewan has the strongest nominee program in Canada and we are determined to make sure that it remains the strongest.”

“As always, the government treats any suspected immigration infractions very seriously. Government officials look into information provided by anyone showing potential evidence of wrongdoing.”

When asked, the premier’s office didn’t explain what it meant by “strongest.”

Sharma said Alberta prioritizes approving the immigration applications of people who already live in the province and work or study there, whereas Saskatchewan “will still allow someone to come directly from overseas and I think perhaps that should be tightened up.”

He said it’s implausible that someone from China with weak language skills would be able to land a job in Canada without assistance.

And he said there are many who are willing to “help.”

“It is inevitably fostering fraud,” Sharma said.

Source: ‘They were very persistent’: CBC finds more cash-for-jobs immigration schemes – Saskatchewan – CBC News

Services d’immigration: hausse importante des vérifications policières | Montréal

The limits to the “sanctuary city” designations:

Malgré la désignation récente de Montréal à titre de «ville sanctuaire», les contacts des policiers avec les autorités fédérales pour vérifier le statut d’immigration de personnes interceptées pour diverses infractions ont augmenté de façon marquée depuis le début de l’année, et de 67% en moyenne depuis 2014.

Au cours de la même période, les policiers de Toronto ont réduit de 20% leurs vérifications auprès de l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada (ASFC), tandis qu’elles ont été à peu près stables à Vancouver, révèlent des documents obtenus par La Presse en vertu de la Loi sur l’accès à l’information.

Selon l’assistant-directeur du Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, Daniel Touchette, cette hausse est due à l’amélioration des communications avec l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada, notamment grâce à l’implantation d’une ligne téléphonique directe, dans le but de mieux combattre la criminalité ayant des ramifications internationales.

Même en cas de délit mineur, comme traverser la rue à un endroit interdit ou prendre le métro sans payer, ces vérifications peuvent entraîner l’arrestation d’un individu, sa détention et parfois son expulsion, si les policiers constatent qu’il se trouve au Canada illégalement. Il sera alors remis aux autorités frontalières.

Des victimes d’actes criminels qui font appel à la police pour être protégées peuvent elles-mêmes être arrêtées si les agents découvrent, en contrôlant leur identité, que leur statut n’est pas en règle, indique Daniel Touchette, confirmant ainsi ce que dénoncent les organismes qui viennent en aide aux sans-papiers.

Quelle protection offre la «ville sanctuaire»?

Cette question est au coeur des débats entourant la décision de Montréal de se donner le statut de «ville sanctuaire», en février dernier. Ce statut est censé permettre aux immigrants sans statut légal d’obtenir n’importe quel service municipal, incluant l’aide des policiers, sans crainte d’être dénoncés aux autorités frontalières.

Les policiers ne devraient jamais s’enquérir du statut d’immigration de qui que ce soit, sauf en cas d’infraction criminelle, selon les organisations qui travaillent avec les personnes sans papiers.

«On ne fait aucune vérification aléatoire de statut d’immigration, répond Daniel Touchette. Mais l’ASFC peut être un outil pour nous permettre de vérifier l’identité d’une personne. Et si on voit un mandat d’arrestation dans la banque de données, on a une obligation légale d’appliquer.»

Pourtant, l’Association canadienne des chefs de police (ACCP) affirme que les policiers ne se préoccupent pas du statut d’immigration, sauf en cas d’infraction criminelle ou autre raison valable. L’ACCP reconnaît que «les victimes, témoins et plaignants cherchent l’assurance que s’ils doivent faire appel aux services policiers, leur statut d’immigration ne sera pas une préoccupation», a-t-elle fait savoir dans une déclaration envoyée par courriel, tout en précisant ne pas avoir de position officielle sur la question des villes sanctuaires.

Source: Services d’immigration: hausse importante des vérifications policières | Isabelle Ducas | Montréal

Canada deports hundreds to China each year with no treatment guarantee

The large number of deportations to China reflects in part the large number of immigrants from China: 1,386 deportations compared to over 78,000 immigrants, or 1.8 percent (2013-15).

However, this is more than other large source countries like the Philippines and India. Given lack of due process in Chinese courts, this concern is not misplaced with respect to corruption cases:

The Canadian government is deporting hundreds of people to China each year without receiving any assurances that they will not be tortured or otherwise mistreated, statistics provided to The Globe and Mail reveal.

Canada and China do not have a formal extradition treaty, and the Trudeau government has signalled that it may not complete such a deal out of concern about abuses in the Chinese justice system.

The lack of such a deal has not, however, stopped Canada from sending people back to China. The Canada Border Services Agency has used deportation, expelling 1,386 people to China over the past three years, according to agency statistics.

It’s a process that lawyers, academics and former diplomats say offers too few protections against the mistreatment deportees might endure.

It also places Canada at risk of using evidence rooted in coerced confessions as Canadian authorities make decisions on ejecting people, particularly those sought by Beijing as part of its sweeping global Skynet operation to chase people it calls corrupt fugitives.

When people are returned to a country such as China, “there’s a need for very significant and enforceable assurances about the treatment they will receive and monitoring on the part of Canada – which Canada has not done,” said Sharryn Aiken, an expert on immigration and refugee law at Queen’s University.

“And in the absence of monitoring, people die in jail.”

The United Nations Committee against Torture has said that in China “the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal-justice system.”

Canada’s own foreign service recently signed its name to a letter saying there are “credible claims of torture” against people under interrogation in China.

Before deporting someone, Canadian immigration officials can conduct what is called a “preremoval risk assessment,” designed to evaluate whether a person is in danger of mistreatment upon return. “Due diligence is important before undertaking any removal measures,” said Nicholas Dorion, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency. That assessment is “in place to ensure that a person will not be removed to a country where they could face death or torture.”

But risk assessments are done entirely in Canada and do not include demands that China guarantee it will abide by certain standards of conduct, or allow Canada to monitor deportees.

“Many of us don’t feel it’s really an effective safeguard,” said Vancouver immigration lawyer Douglas Cannon. “Especially in the case of people who are being sent back to face prosecution in China.”

The potential for problems is serious enough that David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China, says Ottawa should refuse to co-operate with Beijing on most corruption cases, limiting joint law-enforcement work to public-safety cases involving people accused of murder or drug offences.

When China demands the return of people it calls corrupt, it is asking Canada “to send people back into a very murky and worrisome Chinese system,” he said. “You have to be very sure that you are not on the Canadian side enabling the Chinese to unfairly prosecute someone.”

Using Interpol

Ottawa does have the ability to demand assurances from countries such as China, as it did in the high-profile deportation of notorious smuggler Lai Changxing in 2011. Beijing pledged not to torture or execute the man it then considered its number one most-wanted. China also promised Canada extraordinary rights to monitor his treatment. Mr. Lai’s case, however, was a notable exception.

Canada maintains lists of countries to which deportations are either permanently or temporarily blocked, although it has exceptions for criminals and people deemed to be a security risk. Canada deported 6,964 people in 2016. Of those, 382 were sent to China, just more than 5 per cent of the total, CBSA statistics show. In recent years, Chinese citizens have been the fourth-most regularly deported from Canada, behind citizens of Hungary, the United States and Mexico.

Source: Canada deports hundreds to China each year with no treatment guarantee – The Globe and Mail