RCMP Asked To Investigate Nova Scotia Immigrant Program

RCMP asked to investigate Nova Scotia immigrant program

Globe and Mail Update
October 1, 2008 at 10:29 AM EDT

HALIFAX The investigation into a controversial program that allowed immigrants to buy their way into the country has been handed over to the police.

Nova Scotia auditor general Jacques Lapointe issued Wednesday his second report on the program, detailing inappropriate payments to immigration agents and noting that more than half of the mentors he investigated did not meet the rules for participation.

He would not go into detail on the problems requiring police attention, saying only that there were irregularities that went beyond the scope of his probe.

“Without making any judgment on the issues so identified, we referred the matters to the RCMP for their review, Mr. Lapointe said in a statement released Wednesday morning.

Under the immigration scheme, hundreds of people paid $130,500 each to be fast-tracked through the entry process. Businesses agreed to hire them for six months in return for receiving $100,000 of the immigrant's money, of which at least $20,000 was supposed to be paid back to them in wages.

The program was managed by a private firm before being taken over by the provincial government and then, in 2006, suspended.

There have been numerous complaints from immigrants that the work placements did not match their professional background or were otherwise of little value. Some of the immigrants say they were told not to bother showing up for work.

In the report released Wednesday, Mr. Lapointe offered more detail on the treatment of the migrants, including that some immigration agents were improperly paid. Part of the migrant's fee was to pay for an agent, the report notes, but migrants did not necessarily know that and some paid twice for the service.

…some nominees were told an agent was a requirement, even if the nominee prepared his own application; some applicants were required to sign blank agent forms; some agents were paid for work they did not do; and some payments were made to individuals not listed as the agent of record, the report notes.

The report also examined a sample of 41 mentors, finding that 24 of them did not meet the program's approval criteria and … should not have been approved as mentors or received program funds.

In a number of places the report notes matters that have been referred to the police. These are not explained in detail but include the actions of employees at Cornwallis Financial Corporation, the firm initially contracted to run the program, an unidentified Halifax lawyer and some of the companies who received funding under the program.

In a statement appended to Mr. Lapointe's report, the government noted that there is no indication in the Auditor General's report that any provincial government staff person or official was involved in the matters referred to the RCMP.

When the first phase of Mr. Lapointe's probe was released in June indicating minimal oversight and that many of the participating companies were ineligible under the province's own rules the government agreed to reimburse the monies paid by any migrant who had stayed in the province.

Immigration Minister Len Goucher said then that several bureaucrats have been disciplined, adding that privacy rules prevented his saying how many or what their punishments were. He also said that, despite its many problems, the program still gave most immigrants what they were probably looking for.

“Anyone who came, ultimately, wanted to come to Canada,” he said. “I think that their main objective was met.”


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