More Frauds Surface In Immigration

Posted AT 2:17 PM EDT ON 09/10/06

More frauds surface in immigration
The Globe and Mail

Canadian Press

MONTREAL The federal Immigration and Refugee Board has identified nearly two dozen suspect cases handled by a Quebec adjudicator who has admitted to being on the take, according to internal department documents.

Overall, the board's legal team in Montreal reviewed 565 files handled by Yves Bourbonnais, say documents obtained by The Canadian Press using access-to-information laws.

Of those, the legal team identified 23 suspect files but the board will not automatically review the cases, said a department official. Rather, it will be up to applicants or the minister to appeal the decisions in those cases.

The review of those files took place by the IRB and it was decided that no further actions were required by the IRB, said department spokeswoman Dominique Forget. You have to understand that this is an adversarial process.

Ms. Forget said if there are any appeals, they will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Bourbonnais, an adjudicator for the board's immigration appeal division, is serving six years in prison for fixing decisions in exchange for cash.

He was sentenced in June to six years in prison for 15 counts of obstruction of justice and 15 counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the influence-peddling scandal.

The 64-year-old refugee judge was one of 11 people arrested in Montreal for the scam.

According to court records, he would inform his accomplices about cases coming before him and they, in turn, approached applicants to offer them favourable decisions in exchange for up to $15,000 in cash.

The board came under fire again last week when the RCMP launched an investigation into an adjudicator for the board's refugee protection division in Ontario accused of offering assistance on a refugee claim in return for sexual favours.

A woman and her boyfriend handed over a video they say they taped secretly of a meeting between the woman and adjudicator Steve Ellis in early September.

Mr. Ellis was suspended and barred from board premises pending further investigation after the couple sent the tape to board officials.

David Matas, a human rights and immigration lawyer, said the two cases expose a major flaw in the current immigration and refugee process there is just one adjudicator and no appeals process other than Federal Court.

This person, basically, has a life or death decision and in some instances, we can see, it creates a temptation for corruption because people know they control the life of these people, Mr. Matas said in a telephone interview.

There's no appeal, so for the corrupt they figure Well, if I can get money out of this, or I can get some money out of this, why not?'

Last week, board chairman Jean-Guy Fleury posted a statement on the board's website concerning the most recent allegation.

Canadians have a right to demand that the IRB's processes are conducted in an ethical and fair manner, Mr. Fleury wrote. There is no tolerance for abuse of any kind in this institution.

But the department refused to release, under access to information, any documents on measures that may have been taken to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Mr. Fleury stressed on the website that in its 15 years, the board has issued a half million decisions. There are approximately 120 adjudicators across the country.