Skip to main content Start of content

PACC Committee Report

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.






HOUSE OF COMMONS
OTTAWA, CANADA
K1A 0A6





INTRODUCTION

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CONCLUSION


Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to present its

TWENTY-FIFTH REPORT

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has considered Chapter 5 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Citizenship and Immigration Canada — Control and Enforcement) and the Committee has agreed to report the following:

INTRODUCTION

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration (the Department) has a mandate that is vital and demanding. It must prevent undesirable individuals from entering Canada while facilitating the smooth arrival of legitimate visitors and immigrants. Both activities have important implications for the health, safety, and economic well-being of Canada and Canadians.

In its Budget of December 2001, tabled in the aftermath of the horrific events of September 11, the Government of Canada allocated $7.7 billion over six years for public security and anti-terrorism. The Department’s planned share of this additional funding is $639.4 million. The Department plans to direct this money towards improved screening ($196.8 million), enhanced intelligence capacity ($131.2 million), enforcement activities within Canada ($154.0 million), and the production of a new permanent resident card with modern security features ($157.4 million).

As a consequence of the importance of the Department’s mandate and the significant costs involved in fulfilling it, the Committee decided to review the results of an audit of the Department’s control and enforcement activities vis-à-vis people who must have visas to enter Canada. Accordingly, the Committee met with witnesses on 12 May 2003 to discuss the audit results. Mrs. Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada, was accompanied by Mr. Shahid Minto, the Assistant Auditor General responsible for the audit, and Mr. John Hitchinson, the Audit Principal who led the audit team. Mr. Michel Dorais, Deputy Minister, represented the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Ms. Lyse Richard, Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations, and Mr. Daniel Jean, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister (Policy and Program Development) accompanied Mr. Dorais.

OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The audit produced mixed results. Several findings indicate that the Department has performed well. The Committee notes in particular the following initiatives that help reduce the need for more costly and difficult removal efforts after inadmissible individuals have arrived in Canada:

·       Migration integrity officers (formerly referred to as immigration control officers) posted abroad have been effective in stopping people with improper documents from travelling to Canada. Officers intercepted 6,271 such individuals in 2000, 7,880 in 2001, and 5,601 in 2002.

·       Disembarkation and response teams at major airports help identify passengers with improper documents and link them to the responsible air carriers. These teams have managed to decrease the number of undocumented arrivals that could be linked to an airline by about 15% since 1988.

The Committee acknowledges that some progress has been made by these and other efforts designed to stop undesirable travellers from coming to Canada and recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 1

That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada continue to pursue initiatives that will prevent the entry of inadmissible individuals from entering Canada and report the outcomes and costs of these preventative measures in its annual performance reports.

The results of the audit, however, also contained some disturbing news. The Auditor General reported that:

There is a growing but unknown number of people who remain in Canada despite Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s having issued a removal order against them. The gap between removal orders issued and confirmed removals has grown by about 36,000 in the past six years.[1]

The Committee was therefore relieved to find that the Department has agreed to implement all of the Auditor General’s recommendations to help correct the situation. The Committee was particularly gratified that the Department had implemented one recommendation prior to the completion of the audit. This involved signing a memorandum of understanding with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) regarding screening procedures for travellers at points of entry. The Office of the Auditor General had been urging that this be done over the past 15 years.

While the Committee welcomes the Department’s acceptance of the recommendations, it now looks forward to their timely and complete implementation. To help Parliament scrutinize this implementation, as well as to guide the Department in its efforts, the Committee recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 2

That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration develop a detailed action plan outlining how and when it will implement the recommendations contained in Chapter 5 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General of Canada. The plan should include target implementation dates and performance indicators, and be provided to the Committee no later than 31 December 2003.

Although the Committee was generally satisfied with a number of steps already taken by the Department and its overall response to the audit, a number of issues remain that require further action.

Primary and secondary inspection lines at points of entry play a crucial role. It was therefore disappointing to discover that the last time the primary and secondary inspection lines had been evaluated was in 1992 and 1994 respectively. This is especially troubling in light of the poor performance of both lines that was highlighted by the evaluations and lack of plans to do follow-ups. The Committee would have expected actions to have been taken to address shortcomings and that regular evaluations would have been scheduled. There was no evidence to suggest that either of these actions had been taken.

Although the Department and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency have now signed a memorandum of understanding designed in part to address this issue, the Committee wishes to underline its concern that firm corrective action be taken. It therefore recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 3

That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency draw up an evaluation schedule for the primary and secondary inspection lines at ports of entry, and correct shortcomings that are detected in a timely manner. Both the Department and the Agency should make references to these activities in their annual performance reports.

Minister’s permits, now known as temporary resident permits, allow non-admissible individuals into Canada when there are compelling reasons. The Auditor General reviewed a sample of the files for these permits and found that in 20% of the cases, the reason for inadmissibility was incorrectly classified. Forty percent of the files did not contain information supporting the decision to issue the permit, and when it came to cases involving persons denied entry due to serious crimes or security issues, 49% of the files did not support the decision. The Deputy Minister sought to assure the Committee that corrective measures had been taken. For greater certainty, the Committee recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 4

That the Department of Citizenship and Immigration ensure that all files on temporary resident permits contain correct information on the reason for inadmissibility and the reasons for issuing the permit. The Department must describe the steps it has taken and the results achieved in this regard in its Performance Report for the period ending 31 March 2004.

In contrast to prevention efforts, removal is much more expensive and difficult. It was therefore disappointing to discover that the Department had scaled back a promising removal initiative. The Greater Toronto Removals Centre had been conducting personal interviews with failed refugee claimants who had been ordered removed from Canada. About 60% of these individuals left voluntarily after the interview and a further 20% left after a follow-up investigation. The Auditor General reported that the voluntary departures “saved the Department from expensive and time-consuming investigations and removals.” Yet the number of officers involved has been reduced and a similar project in the British Columbia and Yukon region has also been scaled back. When asked why, Mr. Dorais replied that following the release of the Auditor General’s Report, the Department was re-evaluating its decision.

The Department should allocate resources toward initiatives that show potential to reduce costs while producing sought-after outcomes. The approach of the Greater Toronto Removals Centre not only produced a significant number of departures and saved money; it also may have eliminated much of the distress associated with the removals process. The Committee accordingly recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 5

That the Department restore resourcing for the Greater Toronto Removals Centre project and the British Columbia and Yukon project, and monitor their performance closely to determine whether a similar approach should be adopted in other regions of Canada.

Based on the hearings and the response to the audit, the Committee finds that the Department has taken the Auditor General’s observations seriously and is determined to address them. Nevertheless, the Department’s response to previous audits has been tardy and incomplete in several important aspects. This suggests that monitoring is needed to give Parliament the assurances it needs that the Department is fulfilling its commitments successfully. The Committee therefore recommends:

RECOMMENDATION 6

That, because of tardy and incomplete departmental response to previous audits, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada conduct a follow-up audit focused on the issues covered in Chapter 5 of the April 2003 Report for inclusion in the Status Report to Parliament.

CONCLUSION

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration bears a significant responsibility to ensure that inadmissible individuals are prevented from entering Canada and that those who have managed to slip past controls are removed in an expeditious manner. The safety and security of Canadians and their neighbours depend on the Department’s ability to fulfil this responsibility to the utmost of its ability. This has always been true. It is particularly true in a world in which international terrorism has become more prevalent.

The Committee believes that the Department is taking its responsibilities very seriously. By acting in a timely and determined manner to implement the Auditor General’s recommendations and those put forth by the Committee, the Department will strengthen its capacity to achieve its mandate more effectively.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requests that the Government table a comprehensive response to this report.

A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meetings No.29 and 45) is tabled.

Respectfully submitted,



JOHN WILLIAMS, M.P.
Chair



[1]       The Auditor General added that this does not necessarily mean that this number of people remains at large in Canada — some may have left without reporting their departure. But it does show that the Department was falling behind in removing people.