As an immigration lawyer, it is not often that I get to praise the men and women that work for the Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Indeed, I spend much of my day writing arguments challenging their decisions. However, in the wake of the media hysteria following the Auditor General of Canada’s report on weaknesses in Canada’s visa system, I feel like a great big “calm down.. they’re doing just fine” is in order.
Judging by the media headlines, you would think that Canada’s borders were porous, with hordes of terrorists, serious criminals, and people with dangerous, contagious diseases flooding into our country. You would think that the people working for the CBSA and CIC were all inexperienced, poorly trained rookies, unable to keep up with the flood of inadmissible people entering the country. However, while there are certainly some procedures that can be changed, in my opinion, on the whole the CBSA and CIC are quite good at implementing Canada’s immigration laws.
As the Auditor General report noted, in 2010 Canadian immigration officials processed over a million applications for people seeking temporary residence in Canada, and 317,000 applications for permanent residence. I have yet to read one media report that mentions an actual incident of an inadmissible person gaining entry to Canada and doing something that causes a danger to the public, let alone one inadmissible person being admitted to Canada as a result of an inexperienced immigration officer. The Auditor General’s report also does not mention one specific example. It is all hypothetical.
Indeed, contrary to the perception of weak enforcement currently being created in the wake of the Auditor General’s report, it is more likely that people who do not pose a threat to the public are denied entry to Canada because of how broad Canada’s inadmissibility provisions are, and how competent and vigilant our immigration officers are in enforcing them.
For example, criminal inadmissibility is so broad that anyone who has committed an offense abroad whose equivalent in Canada is either a hybrid offense or an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament is inadmissible to Canada. The result is that every year thousands of people who have committed offenses ranging from drunk driving, to minor assaults, to (in one case that I recently dealt with) failing to properly display a boat license, are denied entry to Canada. In many cases these individuals committed their offenses several years, sometimes decades, ago.
Such people are often able to obtain a Temporary Resident Permit to overcome their inadmissibility to Canada. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s 2011 Annual Report to Parliament, in 2010 CIC issued 6,451 Temporary Resident Permits to people that were inadmissible to Canada for general criminality, and 907 permits to people that were inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality.
In each of the above cases, an individual was declared to be criminally inadmissible to Canada. Although that individual was later able to overcome the inadmissibility (often at great expense), the point is that Canadian immigration officials caught them, and initially denied them entry to Canada.
On the issue of medical inadmissibilites, the Auditor General’s report created the perception that people are only denied entry to Canada for two diseases: syphilis and tuberculosis. However, a quick review of health inadmissibility cases that were litigated in Federal Court show that people have been denied entry to Canada for diseases ranging from mental handicaps, Rheumatoid Arthritis, cleft palates, autism, Cerebral Palsy, schizophrenia, Down Syndrome, osteoarthritis, and many more.
Certainly the families of these poor people that were denied entry to Canada would question the notion that hordes of medically inadmissible people have are constantly waltzing into Canada.
So to answer the question of one reporter who asked whether Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the CBSA are not “winging it” when it comes to protecting our borders, my answer is no. A quick review of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Operational Manuals, Operational Bulletins, as well as the literally thousands of cases which shows how things work in practice demonstrate, our immigration officials are doing a more than adequate job at protecting Canada’s borders.