Border Agency Can’t Find 41,000 Deportees

Border agency can't find 41,000 deportees
Tracking system inadequate; Day to pursue 'exit controls'

Andrew Mayeda
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Harper government hopes to implement tighter “exit controls” on deportees, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday after the auditor general revealed that Canada's border protection agency has lost track of about 41,000 individuals ordered to leave the country.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser found that the Canada Border Services Agency does not have an adequate system for tracking such individuals. Moreover, agency officers don't investigate the vast majority of such cases for fear of devoting resources to finding people who might have already left the country.

As a result, there are a growing a number of individuals who might be staying in Canada illegally, a list that could include serious criminals.

Unlike some countries, Canada doesn't have exit controls to monitor individuals who have been ordered to leave, Mr. Day said.

“There needs to be a better system to track people who have been told they are inadmissible and many of those people leave of their own accord, but they don't report it. That's one of the recommendations we want to pursue,” he said, without elaborating.

The Commons public accounts committee asked Ms. Fraser to follow up on a 2003 audit showing that a growing number of people remained in Canada despite being ordered to leave.

Border services officers are authorized to arrest and detain permanent residents and foreign nationals who pose a danger to the public, cannot verify their identity or are likely to skip immigration proceedings.

The most recent audit found the agency has improved its ability to assess risks and track individuals ready for removal. At the time of the 2003 audit, the agency had no means of counting the number of people ordered to leave the country.

Still, the number of individuals who might be staying illegally continues to grow.

“It's obviously a problem, because it really goes to the integrity of our immigration laws,” Ms. Fraser told reporters. “If people can come into the country and stay here illegally, why would they go through what is a very long and complicated process to become a resident in Canada?”

However, she said it was “good news” the agency is focusing its resources on “higher-risk individuals.”

The agency has since established a database that tracks individuals subject to either removal orders or immigration warrants. An immigration warrant is for arrest and detention under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Individuals sought on such warrants are typically deported after being caught.

As of last September, there were about 63,000 individuals in the database. The agency knew the whereabouts of roughly 22,000 individuals, but the remaining 41,000 people couldn't be located.

Ms. Fraser's office doesn't know for sure how many of those individuals might have been serious criminals, but she said most of the 41,000 are likely failed refugee claimants who don't represent a serious security risk.

She noted that most countries have illegal immigrants, and she said policymakers should decide how many is acceptable. “The reality is there will always be people in the country illegally. What that number should be … is really up to the department to decide.”

The agency was supposed to roll out a new case-management system that would have integrated 14 legacy systems, including the one used to track detentions and removals, but implementation has been delayed, leaving regional officers to develop their own methods of prioritizing cases.

The audit also revealed the agency doesn't track whether individuals whose temporary-residence permits have expired have left the country as required.

– The Canada Border Services Agency must improve the way it tracks individuals ordered to leave the country. Last fall, the agency had no idea of the whereabouts of 41,000 individuals ordered out of Canada for being in the country illegally.

– Children living on First Nations reserves are eight times more likely to seek the aid of child welfare services than children living off reserves. Last year, there were 8,300 on-reserve children using family service programs — about five per cent of all children on reserves.

– National Defence should improve the way it sends supplies to troops in Afghanistan. The department has trouble keeping track of supplies and maintaining some key equipment because of spare-part shortages, making it increasingly difficult to support the mission.

– Canadians pay too much for passports. Consular fees involved in the cost of adult passports are disproportionate to the service being provided and should be adjusted.

– The prime minister's residence, 24 Sussex Drive, is in critical need of repair. Cost of renovations is $10 million and the prime minister would need to vacate the building for 12 to 15 months. Much of Rideau Hall, the Governor General's official residence, is also in poor to critical condition.

– Health Canada has been charging too little for medicinal marijuana. A 2007 report shows that the department underestimated the cost of administering and regulating the program and the fee to consumers did not recover the full costs of the program.

– The Public Health Agency has trouble keeping track of the spread of infectious diseases due to gaps in its information-sharing agreements with the provinces and territories.

— Tobin Dalrymple

Online: For more news and analysis, and to see a Global Video report of the auditor general's findings, go to