Border agency failing to promptly remove many people from Canada, auditor says
Published Wednesday, July 8, 2020 9:59AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, July 8, 2020 2:56PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Canada's border agency has failed to promptly remove most of the people under orders to leave the country, the federal auditor general says.
In a report tabled in Parliament Wednesday, the auditor said the Canada Border Services Agency's efforts were hampered by poor data quality and case-management flaws, resulting in avoidable delays in thousands of cases.
Problems in sharing information with immigration officials also slowed things down.
The border agency is responsible for carrying out removal orders to ensure public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.
The report noted the federal government had made significant investments over the last decade to improve the efficiency of the asylum system, including removals.
However, the auditor general found, the border agency had not touched thousands of files for years, including some high-priority removals.
The agency also lost track of 34,700 people and was not conducting the regular follow-ups to locate them by opening each file at least every three years, or once a year for people with criminal histories.
"Without a reliable inventory of removal orders, the agency could not effectively prioritize removals according to risk and complexity. We also found cases in which the agency was unaware that removal orders had been issued," the report said.
"Many cases we examined were also stalled because officers had done little to overcome impediments like missing travel documents."
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the cabinet member responsible for the border agency, said the government accepts the auditor's recommendations to fix the problems.
In addition to improving its removals strategy, the border agency will enhance the way it tracks and triages cases to ensure priority ones are addressed quickly, Blair said in a statement.
"This includes continuing to implement a data integrity strategy to ensure that it can quickly identify the stages all cases are at so they can move forward in a timely fashion."
The border agency is taking steps to locate foreign nationals whose whereabouts are unknown by completing a review of all outstanding cases, prioritizing criminal cases and focusing investigations on the most serious ones, Blair added.
Finally, the agency will develop an "incentive program" to increase voluntary compliance, he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020