Auditor General Sheila Fraser is reporting that Canada's border agency has lost track of 41,000 people who have been ordered out of the country.

In a report tabled Tuesday, Fraser said that the numbers of people in Canada illegally may be growing because the Canada Border Services Agency is failing to monitor its detention and removal decisions properly.

"If people can come into the country and stay here illegally, why would they go through what was a very long and complicated process to become a resident in Canada," she asked at a press conference in Ottawa.

Hundreds of those in Canada illegally, Fraser said, are hardened criminals. But she noted that the "good news" is that the agency is focusing on tracking down the most dangerous fugitives.

Fraser noted that the agency does know the whereabouts of 22,000 of 63,000 people facing formal deportation orders.

Hours after Fraser released her report, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced that CBSA had arrested 45 people who allegedly entered Canada illegally.

However, he did not say specify the date of the arrests.

A spokesperson for the Customs Excise Union says he agrees with Fraser's findings. Ron Moran told CTV Newsnet Tuesday afternoon that tracking people facing deportation is not given a high enough priority.

"The figure was startling," he said, noting, "(that) happens when you don't have enough resources."

Moran says Ottawa needs to invest in new technologies to help border agents. He said he knows of a case where one person was kicked out of Canada eight times, only to return with faked documents. Moran said new equipment such as face recognition technology is needed to help customs staff.

Fraser also criticized the agency for poorly managed holding centres for illegal immigrants facing deportation.

In Toronto, the holding centre is so overcrowded some detainees have to use sleeping bags placed on the floor.

"In another region, holding cells for individuals awaiting hearings, which are designed for three people, had been used to hold 10, without enough space for some to sit," Fraser said.

Fraser's report also addressed several other issues including issues surrounding:

  • Native children in foster care
  • The need for $10 million in repairs to 24 Sussex Drive, which would take 12-15 months to complete and require the prime minister and his family to move out 
  • Slow reporting of the spread of infectious diseases to the World Health Organization by Canada's Public Health Agency

On the issue of native children in foster care, Fraser's report noted that native kids are more likely to wind up in unevenly funded and poorly tracked foster care. The report also said that little is known about the quality of services they are given, and the formula used to provide those services goes back to 1988. That formula is too rigid, according to the auditor general. Fraser said it needs to be changed to reflect the current realities of aboriginal communities.

"Children are among the most vulnerable people in society," Fraser said. "Some of the most vulnerable children in Canada are First Nations children."

In question period Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that he is aware of some of the "challenges" in services for aboriginal people. Responding to a question about Fraser's report by NDP leader Jack Layton, Harper said his government has invested more than $490 million in the last two years to fix some of the problems.

Harper also noted that the prime minister's residence is adequate for now, and he has no plans to move out before the next election.