RCMP to raid Montreal address as part of crackdown on immigration cheats
Published Monday, September 10, 2012 10:20AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 10, 2012 8:08PM EDT
The RCMP is set to raid an unknown location in Montreal where 1,000 families claim to live, as part of a crackdown on those believed to be cheating the immigration system, CTV News has learned.
The Montreal raid is part of an initiative by the federal government to find and punish those who are abusing the immigration system in their quest to gain Canadian citizenship.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced on Monday that his department has begun the process of revoking citizenship from up to 3,100 individuals, as investigators probe nearly 11,000 people suspected of lying to become citizens of Canada.
Another 5,000 permanent residents have been flagged for living outside of the country.
In a media briefing Monday morning, Kenney said the government is targeting those individuals in order "to protect the value of Canadian citizenship."
Immigration officials are working with the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP, he said, to investigate "nearly 11,000 individuals from more than 100 countries for attempting to cheat."
Nearly 5,000 individuals who are yet to become Canadian citizens have been “flagged for additional security,” Kenney said, explaining that they are either known to be or suspected of trying to defraud the system.
Typically, Kenney said, immigration fraud is perpetrated by unscrupulous consultants who advise would-be Canadians on the best ways to skirt the system.
Some are paid up to $25,000, he said, in order to help clients get around the requirement that permanent residents spend at least three of the four years living in Canada. Similarly, permanent residents must be in Canada for two out of five years in order to maintain their status.
“We want to send a message: “Canadian citizenship is not for sale,” Kenney told CTV’s Power Play Monday.
He stressed that the “vast majority” of Canadian immigrants are “hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding people.”
“It is those law-abiding immigrants who made me aware that some unscrupulous, crooked consultants were giving people pointers, for a fee…to help them basically cheat our citizenship laws,” he said.
Kenney said he took his concerns about fraudulent residency and citizenship applications to the RCMP and the CBSA about three years ago.
Investigators found that some consultants were creating fake addresses and fake receipts for their clients to assist them in obtaining permanent residency status or Canadian citizenship while they lived elsewhere.
In one case, a Montreal “consultant” even had a fake office -- a door that opened to reveal a brick wall, Kenney told Power Play.
In another case, more than 300 people claimed to be living in an office above a Palestinian cultural centre in Mississauga, Ont.
“They never lived at this address,” said executive director of Palestine House Issam Al-Yamani of the suspicious office. “There was a tenant who was an immigration consultant and he uses his office as an address of the immigrants.”
Criminal charges have already been laid against some immigration consultants, and more are pending, Kenney said.
Since the immigration fraud crackdown was launched, the minister said 600 former permanent residents have either been removed or denied admittance to Canada. Another 500 permanent residents have had their citizenship applications denied.
The fact that another 1,800 individuals abandoned the application process after coming under scrutiny is a sure sign, Kenney said, of how widespread the problem is.
“I think this is just the beginning. These investigations are going to go on for years,” he said.
He also suggested that the previous Liberal government dropped the ball on immigration fraud, partly out of fear of being labelled as “politically incorrect.”
“Between 1947, when the Citizenship Act came into law, and 2010, when we started this crackdown, only 70 people had their citizenship revoked for fraud,” Kenney said.
Part of the government initiative includes plans to license immigration consultants. Consultants will also be required to report to a watchdog agency.
Residency fraud is rampant: lawyer
Toronto immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said she was surprised by the number of immigration cases under investigation because she believes there are many more.
“There’s so much residency fraud, it would blow your mind,” she told Power Play.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “For some reason, there was always a lack of willpower to tackle the problem.”
Desloges said the main perpetrators of residency fraud are wealthy immigrants who desire, for one reason or another, a Canadian passport.
“What this involves is usually wealthy people who have a good standard of living in their own country and they would like to have immigration to Canada and a Canadian passport simply for the ease of travelling and not needing a visa for other countries,” she said.
Desloges believes that while some would-be Canadians may have been “led down the garden path” by shady immigration consultants, most of those making fraudulent claims knew what they were doing was wrong “at some level.”
Unfortunately, legitimate citizenship applicants may get caught in the dragnet or see their cases delayed because of the government crackdown, she added.
Kenney said the new initiative will send a strong message to those looking to cheat the system.
“By scamming the Canadian immigration system, the gig is up. You can’t do that anymore. You’re running the very high risk of ending up behind bars,” he said.
The minister is encouraging anyone who has information regarding citizenship fraud to call the government’s tip line to report it.
The citizenship fraud tip line can be reached through Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Call Centre at 1-888-242-2100, or via email at Citizenshipfirstname.lastname@example.org. The CBSA also runs its own Border Watch Tip Line that can be reached at 1-888-502-9060.
With a report by CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife