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CIMM Committee Report

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Government of Canada Response to the Seventh Report of the
Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, “Standing on Guard for Thee:
Ensuring that Canada’s Immigration System is Secure”


Introduction

The Government of Canada thanks the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for its Seventh Report entitled “Standing on Guard for Thee: Ensuring that Canada’s Immigration System is Secure”, tabled in the House of Commons on March 18, 2013.  The Government of Canada supports the overall intent of the Report and welcomes the opportunity to have these issues examined from the broad perspective of the many stakeholders who participated in the Committee’s study.

As affirmed in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, the Government is committed to addressing threats to our national security and protecting the integrity of our immigration system.  The Government recognizes the historic importance and significant contributions of immigrants to Canada.  Since 2006, Canada has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history, with an average of 257,000 new permanent residents each year.  In addition, in 2012 Canada issued a record number of visitor visas and study permits.  The Government understands that in order to continue welcoming record numbers of permanent and temporary residents to enrich our economy and our communities, Canadians must have confidence in the integrity of our immigration system.  To that end, we continue to develop laws, policies, and practices to strengthen the security of our immigration system and protect the safety and security of Canadians. 

In recent years, the Government has made great strides to renew both the facilitative and security components of Canada’s immigration system, including through major initiatives studied by the Committee such as the historic Canada-United States Beyond the Border Action Plan announced by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama, reforms to Canada’s asylum system under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, and the proposed Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, among many other initiatives.

While the Government has made much progress in this regard in recent years, gaps remain and the Committee’s Report has put forward some important recommendations.  In order to articulate its ongoing vision for the security of Canada’s immigration system, while addressing the totality of issues raised in the Report, the Government has organized its response according to four broad themes, namely:

  1. Safeguarding the integrity of our immigration and border management processes

  2. Enhancing information sharing to support effective immigration screening

  3. Facilitating legitimate travel while enhancing the health, safety, and security of Canadians

  4. Maintaining a fair detention and removal system while protecting national security and public safety

I.  Safeguarding the integrity of our immigration and border management processes (in response to Recommendations 1-9)

The Government recognizes the importance of maintaining public confidence in our immigration system.  Canadians are welcoming people, but they have no tolerance for those who abuse our immigration system.  Accordingly, the Government has introduced a number of new initiatives representing a significant upgrade of Canada’s immigration and border security systems.  The Government would like to address three such initiatives that were examined in the Committee’s study that, once implemented, will considerably enhance the overall integrity of Canada’s immigration system.


Entry-Exit Information System

One of the key immigration and border management issues identified in the Report was that Canada does not currently have the means to record visitors exiting the country.  To address this issue, the Report did recognize the establishment of an Entry-Exit Information System as one of the commitments under the Canada-United States Beyond the Border Action Plan.  The Government agrees that the systematic and comprehensive recording of biographical information of visitors who arrive in, and depart from, Canada will contribute significantly to the integrity of Canada’s immigration and border management programs.


Biometrics

Several of the Committee’s recommendations in its Report relate to biometric screening of temporary residents, which is planned for implementation in 2013.  Robust identity management is at the heart of effective immigration and border management.  The use of biometrics, as an identity management tool for the 21st century, offers an additional layer of security and integrity to support the visa decision-making of immigration officials when establishing an applicant’s identity, and border officials in accurately verifying that the individual arriving at a Canadian port of entry is the same person to whom the visa was issued.  It is an important new tool to help protect the safety and security of Canadians by reducing identity fraud and identity theft.  As fraudsters become more sophisticated, biometrics will improve our ability to keep violent criminals and those who pose a threat to Canada from entering the country in the first place.  As such, the implementation of biometric screening will strengthen the immigration system by modernizing our practices and by providing a reliable and efficient means to help protect the safety and security of Canadians and visitors, while facilitating legitimate travel.  The use of biometrics will also bring Canada in line with many other countries that are already using, or are preparing to use, biometrics in immigration and border management, including trusted allies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Biometric screening is now being introduced into Canada’s temporary resident program and, beginning in the fall of 2013, temporary residence applicants from 29 countries and 1 territory will be required to provide their biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) when applying for a temporary resident visa, work permit, or study permit.  The Government of Canada may also consider the broader implementation of biometric screening and verification at a later date.

The Government recognizes the importance of transparency and the protection of individuals’ privacy in all aspects of biometric screening in Canada’s immigration program.  As highlighted in the Report, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has been working closely with its partners and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure that adequate privacy protection is in place to safeguard applicants’ personal information.   Specifically, in developing this initiative the Government has worked to ensure that the biometric information of applicants will be used, retained, shared and disposed of in accordance with Canada’s privacy legislation, and that the applicants will be notified of these measures.  Regulations and detailed operational manuals will also specify procedures to CIC and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers for the collection of biometric information and practices for the use of that information. 

The Government has also already taken significant measures to secure federal systems and networks, including the stringent security protection of databases to withstand potential cyber attacks.  Additionally, in 2010 the Government released Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy, its plan to protect Canada’s digital infrastructure and make investments to put in place the necessary policies, tools, and technical safeguards to ensure that Canada’s cyber systems are resilient and secure.  Where the immigration program is concerned, CIC, the CBSA, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Shared Services Canada are working in close consultation to ensure that technological safeguards are in place to secure the systems that have been developed to collect, use and store biometric information.  Upon confirmation of receipt by CIC, the biometric information will be immediately deleted from the biometric collection point overseas.  Digital fingerprints will be securely transmitted to the RCMP for fingerprint matching and storage, where strict security and privacy protection safeguards for biometric information are employed.  Photographs will be retained in secure storage facilities at CIC and the CBSA that have been certified and accredited to store personal information. 

The Government recognizes the need for biometric information collected in immigration applications to be screened against appropriate records to identify foreign nationals who pose potential safety or security threats while also facilitating the entry of legitimate travelers.  In accordance with Canada’s privacy laws and the measures described above to protect individual rights when matching biometrics against domestic and international databases, collected biometric information will be searched against Canadian databases containing fingerprints records of known criminals, past refugee claimants and temporary resident applicants, and persons previously deported.  CIC has worked closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner throughout the development of this anticipated process.

Under existing information sharing agreements and arrangements, fingerprints can also be searched against the records of our international partners, including primarily the United States, to determine if they hold information that would be relevant to the administration or enforcement of Canadian immigration law.  Beginning in 2014, as per the Beyond the Border Action Plan commitment, Canada and the United States will have a system capable of generating biometric-based information sharing queries for foreign nationals required to submit biometric information as part of an application to enter or remain in Canada.  Regardless of whether a match is found, the country receiving data for the purpose of searching its records will not retain or store the information sent through this query.  If a fingerprint match is found, biographic information as well as information relevant to administrating or enforcing either country’s immigration law may be shared. 

Finally, with regards to cultural awareness training, when it comes to the cultural expertise of the spelling and ordering of names, for the purposes of identification, the Government acknowledges that more can be done in this area, and that reviews of the practices in other countries can be helpful in this regard.


Electronic Travel Authorization

The Government would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of the Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system as a key measure under current immigration reform efforts.  Anticipated for implementation in 2015, this initiative will significantly complement the aforementioned Entry-Exit Information System and biometric initiatives by providing the Government the ability to screen visa-exempt foreign nationals, with the exception of American citizens, prior to their travel to Canada by air.

In an era of global travel, the introduction of eTA reflects an understanding of the fact that many of those who pose a risk to Canada travel from, or transit through, visa-exempt countries.  The use of this quick online form that travellers from visas-exempt countries will fill out will allow those who pose no risk to Canada to be approved quickly, while preventing criminals and terrorists from entering Canada.

Australia and the United States already use a form of eTA to help screen out high-risk travellers.


II.  Enhancing information sharing to support effective immigration screening (in response to Recommendations 12-17)

While CIC and the CBSA share responsibility for administering the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), collaboration with partners on the many aspects of this mandate is essential to the security of Canada’s immigration system and broader national security objectives.  Where immigration screening is concerned, the Government recognizes the importance of effective collaboration based on timely and responsible information sharing in ensuring the safety and security of Canada.  Such an approach applies not only to information and intelligence sharing among federal and domestic partners but also with international allies. 


Immigration Information Sharing within the Government of Canada

As referenced in the Committee’s Report, the decision of a CIC visa officer may be supported by information provided by the CBSA, the RCMP, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) when safety or security issues warrant engagement of these partners.  In this context, ensuring an efficient flow of information is crucial to an effective immigration security screening program.  The Government supports effective and responsible information sharing among federal partners in accordance with existing laws and authorities, and continues to build on collaborative efforts over the last several years to enhance this essential component of public safety and national security.

In response to the 2011 Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG), the CBSA is implementing an information management strategy, in consultation with domestic security partners, to ensure that necessary information can be accessed in a timely manner to support admissibility decision-making.  In addition, existing information sharing arrangements between CIC, the CBSA, the RCMP and CSIS continue to be reviewed to ensure that they serve the current needs of the security screening program.

Where information sharing arrangements between the CBSA, CIC, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may be concerned, the Government notes that all information collected from or produced about taxpayers to which the CRA has access is confidential and may only be used and disclosed as provided by law.  The CRA currently has information sharing agreements that are strictly limited to support the lawful imposition and collection of a tax or duty, and do not allow the CRA to disclose confidential information about taxpayers to the CBSA to support immigration screening.  In alignment with the Committee’s recommendation on this issue, the Government confirms that consideration is being given to information sharing agreements among CIC, the CBSA and the CRA, in recognition of the potential to support increased detection of fraud, organized criminality, and terrorist financing in the context of assessing admissibility to Canada for temporary and permanent resident applicants, refugee claimants, and citizenship applicants.  In the meantime, CIC and the CBSA will work together on information sharing to support increased fraud detection over the next two years with a view to addressing identified gaps in this area.    

Further efforts to support immigration information sharing among federal partners include ongoing collaboration between CIC and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, through Canadian missions overseas, to ensure that all available information is considered before rendering admissibility decisions as well as to further facilitate the entry of foreign nationals when it is in Canada’s national interest to do so.

Where national security information sharing is concerned, in its response to the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182, the Government committed itself to “introducing legislation to clarify the authorities for information sharing for the purposes of national security.”  Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice have been leading the development of proposals to improve information sharing in a manner that helps domestic partners protect Canada and Canadians.


Intelligence in the Immigration Information Sharing Context

The Government recognizes the value of intelligence collected abroad in support of immigration security processes and notes that CIC and the CBSA are already able to take advantage of an extensive international presence that, in part, contributes to intelligence collection through the use of an established network.  CIC and the CBSA’s routine engagement within this network is supported through close collaboration with Canadian security and intelligence partners that are specifically mandated to collect intelligence to protect Canadian interests, such as CSIS, which has its own network of foreign agency partners. These efforts are further supported by CIC and CBSA’s ongoing collaboration with Canada’s international allies.

As part of the general objectives of IRPA, the Minister of CIC shares responsibility with the Minister of Public Safety to maintain the security of Canadian society, including the assessment of the admissibility of foreign nationals applying for entry to Canada.  CIC uses its international presence in support of this mandate, with a network of missions around the world to access information about countries, regional trends and issues with a potential security interest.  For its part, with its offices and missions abroad, the CBSA collects and uses intelligence in support of national security and prosperity by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada, while also supporting CIC and other domestic and international partners in the identification and mitigation of threats to safety and security.  Both CIC and CBSA officers play a critical role in a range of pre-border activities in matters of irregular migration, national security, intelligence, fraud detection, and supply chain security. They also assist in post-border activities through the support of investigations, removals, reporting and liaison.  At all stages of this multiple border strategy, effective information sharing is essential to CIC and the CBSA in ensuring the safety and security of Canadians.

In support of immigration information sharing efforts in Canada and overseas to prevent human smuggling and illegal migration, the Government has taken specific action by appointing a Special Advisor in 2010, mandated to work with the domestic and international partners, with a particular focus on human smuggling operations that occur by sea. 

The Government will continue to work to ensure that relevant political, economic, and security-related reporting generated by the many federal partners, as well as our international allies is communicated to CIC and CBSA officers in support of decision-making in immigration security screening processes.


Intelligence and Immigration Information Sharing with Allies

Canada has a long history of productive intelligence cooperation with its closest allies, in particular the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.   In the national security context, a high level of effective intelligence sharing is conducted, from which Canada derives significant benefit.  The Government is committed to continuing to work closely with allies to ensure that all sensitive intelligence or other information is effectively shared and protected, according to lawful authorities, international obligations, and privacy laws.  As an example of recent efforts, the Minister of Public Safety issued Ministerial Directions in 2011 on “Information Sharing with Foreign Entities” to CSIS, the RCMP, and the CBSA, to establish consistent policy on decision-making processes regarding information sharing where there may be a risk of mistreatment.

Under the Beyond the Border Action Plan, Canada and the United States have committed to improving bilateral information sharing.  To ensure that information sharing includes adequate privacy safeguards, accountability, and effective oversight with regard to the sharing of personal information, Canada and the United States also released a Joint Statement of Privacy Principles in June 2012, concerning the provision, receipt and use of personal information, to guide and inform Beyond the Border initiatives and arrangements.

Regarding immigration information sharing, the Government is working to increase collaboration with trusted partners through the implementation of both existing and new agreements, including arrangements to access and disclose information on individuals who have been refused admission to Canada or to other countries, or who have been removed for criminal reasons.  Immigration information sharing with key international partners supports the integrity of Canada’s immigration system, contributes to efforts to combat fraud, and helps protect the safety and security of Canadians by identifying inadmissible foreign nationals before they enter Canada.  Immigration information sharing is a key Beyond the Border commitment in support of improved screening.  And so, the Government continues to work with the United States to implement systematic biographic immigration information sharing in fall 2013.  This initiative will represent a significant enhancement to Canada’s immigration information sharing capacities in support of an increased ability to deny admission to individuals who may pose a threat to safety and security or who are seeking to abuse our immigration programs.  As noted by the Committee, Canada also continues to share immigration information within the Five Country Conference (FCC), of which the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand are also members. 

In all of these information sharing contexts, the Government continues to be committed to ensuring that activities are conducted responsibly, in accordance with domestic law and pursuant to arrangements that provide appropriate privacy safeguards for those whose personal information may be shared.  


III.  Facilitating legitimate travel while enhancing the health, safety, and security of Canadians (in response to Recommendations 18-21 & 26-27)

The Government welcomes the recommendations put forward by the Committee on medical screening, war crimes, and security screening, and would like to address all three of these important issues below.


Medical Screening in the Immigration Context

As identified by the Committee, a key medical screening challenge relates to laboratory practices or fraudulent intent on the part of the applicant in the Immigration Medical Examination (IME) process.  In recognition that the integrity of this process could be strengthened, CIC has already begun implementing a range of measures in support of this objective.  For example, CIC recently introduced the e-Medical system, intended to facilitate the collection and transmission of immigration medical information.  Strict applicant identification procedures have been integrated, to reinforce and enhance the integrity of the new system.  CIC will continue to monitor the integrity of the IME process through Quality Assurance activities and through continued collaboration with international partners.   CIC has also begun using the services of designated radiologists, in addition to the Panel Physician Network, intended to improve tuberculosis detection, which is a key public health Government priority. 

The Government acknowledges the risks associated with diagnostic testing conducted within a context of limited mechanisms to monitor laboratory practices.  To mitigate such risks to the extent possible, and as a next step to further enhance system integrity, CIC plans to develop a network of designated laboratories and has begun to formally designate laboratories in certain countries of higher risk, such as countries in which tuberculosis is endemic.  In addition, CIC continues to work with trusted partners to establish a network of reliable testing facilities, using laboratories evaluated and used by FCC partners where possible, as well as those reliable partner organizations.

The Government is also committed to strengthening the protection of public health during the immigration process. In support of reducing tuberculosis incidence in Canada, in particular in foreign born populations, CIC is committed to maintaining its tuberculosis screening protocols and continues to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial and territorial public health authorities to enhance the prevention and control of tuberculosis in Canada. 

The Government recognizes the challenges associated with the validity of IMEs as well as the need for repeated IMEs in certain circumstances.  CIC has already put protocols in place to reduce the burden of these regulatory requirements on both applicants and the immigration system when possible.  CIC will continue to review its overall immigration health policies through ongoing collaboration with provincial, federal and international partners for enhanced alignment with global population mobility trends and related matters.   


War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

The Government is committed to preventing Canada from being a safe haven for war criminals and persons believed to have committed or been complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.  As referenced in the Report, an independent evaluation conducted in 2008 confirmed the relevance of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Program as a cost-effective contribution to Canada’s ability to meet domestic and international obligations where war criminals are concerned.  In response to this evaluation, the Government allocated permanent funding for this important initiative in the 2011 Federal Budget.  This Program emphasizes the effectiveness of immigration remedies, namely denying visas and denying entry to Canada to persons who are inadmissible under IRPA, which provides specific authority to remove individuals who have arrived in Canada but who are inadmissible on grounds related to war crimes or crimes against humanity.  The Program also provides a comprehensive response for dealing with persons suspected of committing war crimes and who are attempting to enter, or have entered, Canada.  In some cases, a criminal justice response is the most appropriate action, for which the RCMP launches criminal investigations pursuant to the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act

The proposed Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, will help ensure that foreign nationals who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds, including human or international rights violations, will no longer be able to delay their removal by applying for a program that is meant for cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate considerations.  This change is consistent with the Government’s no-safe-haven policy.

The Committee’s Report also references the “Wanted by the CBSA” list, an initiative launched by the Government in 2011 to facilitate the execution of outstanding warrants for removal from Canada.  In partnership with Crime Stoppers, the CBSA asked the public to identify and report any information about persons named in this list, which includes individuals who have been identified by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to be involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.  The Government wishes to note that this initiative, as it related to war crimes, not only generated significant public interest but also resulted in the successful location, apprehension and removal of five individuals, as of May 14 2013.


Immigration Screening for Security Grounds

The Government protects the safety and security of Canadians by ensuring that persons posing a security risk are denied access to Canada.  Specifically, section 34 of IRPA provides grounds for denying entry to Canada for national security concerns, including terrorism and espionage.

In its commitment to ensure an ongoing ability to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration system while meeting facilitation, economic, and security objectives, the Government launched a formal review of the immigration inadmissibility provisions, including security grounds, in 2010. This extensive review considered a wide range of proposals to address both security as well as facilitative issues. 

As heard by the Committee, this review resulted in the proposed Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, to amend a suite of immigration provisions under IRPA.  The proposed legislative changes would result in faster removal of foreign criminals, further protect the safety and security of Canadians, strengthen program integrity, and facilitate entry in some cases to support Canadian interests. 

As referenced by the Committee, the 2011 OAG Report included a number of key findings on security screening as it relates to the visa issuance process.  In line with recommendations made for CIC and the CBSA to implement joint risk management and performance measurement strategies, immigration decision-making processes are supported by a risk-based model, which is continuously reviewed to support timely and efficient processing of all applications for entry to Canada.

Also in response to the 2011 OAG Report, CIC and the CBSA are currently implementing new measures to update the training and tools available to officers in Canada and abroad to perform their security screening duties, including those related to decisions pursuant to section 34 of IRPA.  For example, the CBSA has completed a review of training requirements for screening officers and will implement a new, formal program in the 2013-2014 fiscal year which will include a comprehensive component addressing section 34 decisions, and which will also be accessible to CIC visa officers.  While CIC and the CBSA continue to strengthen collaboration on issues related to inadmissibility, including those related to security, the Government will also continue to examine additional ways in which CIC and CBSA officers could be further supported in all areas of their decision-making processes.


IV.  Maintaining a fair detention and removal system while protecting national security and public safety (in response to Recommendations 10-11 & 22-25)

With regards to immigration enforcement activities, the Committee also put forward a number of valuable recommendations related to detentions and removals.  The Government remains committed to ensuring that these activities are carried out in a fair and consistent manner.  A key aspect of the CBSA mandate under IRPA is the ability to detain and remove individuals who do not have lawful status in Canada, as a vital contribution to the safety and security of the Canadian public and to maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.  The CBSA is dedicated to ensuring that individuals applying to enter Canada are treated fairly and equitably throughout the immigration process.  As such, the Government would like to acknowledge and respond to the Committee’s recommendations on these specific enforcement issues.


Detention

Pursuant to its enforcement mandate, the CBSA has the responsibility to conduct investigations to determine whether an individual is inadmissible, and to locate, arrest, and detain those individuals considered inadmissible to Canada.  As noted in the Committee’s Report, detention is sought when an individual’s identity has not been established or when an individual poses a flight risk or danger to the public.  Detention may also be sought for the completion of an immigration examination, or if a CBSA officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an individual is inadmissible at port of entry.  Further, a foreign national who is designated as an irregular arrival by the Minister of Public Safety is subject to mandatory detention.

All decisions related to detention are reviewed in legislated timeframes by a member of the independent IRB, or by a judge of the Federal Court in security certificate cases.  These reviews assess whether the reasons for detention or conditions that were imposed remain valid.  If detention is not pursued, or upon release from detention, an individual may be subject to a number of conditions, including requirements to report regularly to a CBSA office, geographic restrictions, or the imposition of a deposit to ensure compliance with conditions.

In exercising current detention authorities, the CBSA considers reasonable alternatives to detention, such as imposing conditions.  Following a 2008 report by the OAG and a subsequent report by the Standing Committee of Public Accounts in 2009, the CBSA undertook a number of measures to strengthen national consistency and coherence in its detention programs, and continues to examine ways in which these programs and services can be further improved.

The CBSA is currently considering the potential application of electronic monitoring technology with inadmissible foreign nationals, as experience is currently limited to a handful of cases, such as security certificates.  While electronic monitoring has the potential to be a cost-effective alternative to detention, the Government acknowledges that this will not be suitable for all cases.

With regard to CBSA Immigration Holding Centres (IHCs), the Government recognizes its obligation to ensure the health and safety of persons in detention.  The CBSA has established National Detention Standards, based on international standards and created through consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Canadian Council for Refugees, which apply to all individuals detained in any IHC.  To ensure consistency in standards, the CBSA conducts a bi-annual Quality Assurance Program, providing regular opportunities to address gaps as may be warranted.  As indicated in the Committee’s Report, the CBSA also continues to seek Government and non-governmental partners for input on the detention process as a means to ensure ongoing fairness and consistency.  For example, the CBSA has established a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Red Cross to conduct unscheduled site visits and interviews with detainees in support of the fair treatment of individuals.

The Government recognizes that co-locating the IRB and IHCs, where financially and logistically possible, is ideal to ensure effective service and accessibility to a fair detention review.  To ensure the mandates of the CBSA and IRB is upheld, hearings must take place within the timeframes prescribed by law.  As detailed in the Report, IRB hearing rooms are currently co-located with the IHC in Toronto, providing for significant savings in transportation costs and time.  Space limitations at the Vancouver and Laval locations are the main impediment to co-location, with any benefit in transportation costs outweighed by significant cost for infrastructure requirements.  As such, the Government will continue to explore co-location.  To reduce transportation costs as well as reduce security risks associated with transportation and support detainee well-being, the CBSA and IRB are considering the possibility of increasing the use of video-conferencing as an alternative, when appropriate, to in-person hearings.  

The Government also recognizes the importance of using suitable terminology to reflect its programs and services.  The term “Immigration Holding Centre” is already used to describe facilities designed to hold individuals detained pursuant to the authorities provided under IRPA.  In agreement with the Committee’s recommendation, the CBSA will continue to refer to these centres as IHCs in English and change the reference in French from the current “Centre de détention” to the Committee’s recommended “Centre de surveillance de l’immigration” to more accurately reflect the purpose of these centres.


Removals

In addition to its detention mandate, the CBSA also has a statutory obligation under IRPA to remove, as soon as possible, any foreign national who is inadmissible to Canada and has been issued a removal order that has come into force and has not been stayed.  Individuals subject to a removal order are entitled to due process before Canadian law, and may seek appeal or judicial review of their removal order.  This process must be respected before a removal order is enforced.  However, various impediments can delay the removal process, including the need to collaborate with countries that do not issue travel documents, individuals who evade immigration authorities, and airlines that refuse to carry inadmissible persons.

In examining this aspect of the CBSA’s mandate, the Committee’s Report referenced issues related to removal in the context of Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which included a number of new reforms to make Canada’s asylum system faster and fairer, and to deter human smuggling.  The Government put forward this Bill in recognition of the importance of the timely removal of failed refugee claimants in maintaining a fair and secure immigration system. The Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2012, will assist the CBSA in removing failed asylum claimants more quickly, reducing average removal time from four and a half years to less than one year. 

Included in this Act is a new Designated Country of Origin policy, which also supports faster removal of failed refugee claimants by enabling asylum claims from generally non-refugee producing countries to be processed within expedited timelines, and also restricts access to a new Refugee Appeal Division that was established as a result.  Furthermore, the Government has also limited access to certain post-claim recourse processes for all failed claimants that could be used to delay removal from Canada, such as a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and Humanitarian and Compassionate consideration.  The Government will continue to leverage these new measures to remove failed claimants more quickly following a negative refugee decision on an asylum claim, noting that a failed claimant can only be removed from Canada if a removal order is in force and has not been stayed.  In addition to these measures, further regulatory amendments exempt certain failed refugee claimants from receiving an automatic stay of removal when filing an application for judicial review by the Federal Court, in further support of the CBSA’s removal efforts for failed claimants subject to the exemption.  Additional resources were also allocated to the CBSA to reduce its existing removals backlog of failed refugee claimants.  The CBSA will also implement a Last-In, First-Out strategy for the removal of failed refugee claimants, under which the foreign national with the most recently rendered negative IRB decision is placed in the removals processing stream first.  This new strategy aims to mitigate the growth of a new backlog.

The proposed Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, will also support a more effective removals process and thereby enhance the safety and security of Canada by further limiting access to appeals for serious criminality, and removing the possibility for foreign nationals who are inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality to delay their removal on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

As an additional measure to promote a more effective removals system, the CBSA launched an Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration pilot program with the International Organization for Migration in June 2012, in the Greater Toronto Area Region, for low-risk individuals who voluntarily comply with their removal order.  The objective of this pilot program is to encourage voluntary returns as a cost-effective and timely option that complements traditional enforced removals by providing increased counselling, education, and incentives to failed refugee claimants.  To date, this program is proving successful, with over 1,500 departures confirmed as of March 2013. Removal costs generally range between $1,500 and $15,000 and can include costly charter aircraft removals in certain cases. If detention is required, the average cost is approximately $200 a day. As such, the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration pilot program is expected to result in significant cost savings.

These combined measures will significantly enhance the Government’s ability to maintain the integrity of Canada’s immigration and refugee programs.  They will also yield benefit to provincial and territorial governments, as faster removals result in decreased costs with respect to social assistance.  For instance, with the implementation of Bill C-31, fast-tracking refugee claimants arriving from countries that do not normally produce refugees will result in potential savings of $1.6 billion to the federal and provincial governments in social, education and health expenditures over the next five years.


Looking Ahead: Strengthening the Integrity of Canada’s Immigration System

The next few years will bring about an unprecedented reform of Canada’s immigration security regime, as the collection of new Government initiatives currently underway, as highlighted in this Response, are implemented.  The Government will continue to show leadership in renewing Canada’s immigration system through significant measures taken that will allow Canada to maintain its openness and generosity while strengthening the integrity of the immigration system to keep those who pose a risk out of the country.  As always, the Government is committed to upholding one of its most important responsibilities: protecting the safety and security of Canadians.


ANNEX A TO THE GR

LIST OF COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS



Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency implement an exit control system for visitors.

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada require individuals to report to a local Citizenship and Immigration Canada office at the end of the validity of their visa if they have not either left Canada or applied for an extension.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada develop policy and procedures with respect to the collection of biometrics prior to the collection of the data and that the policy clarify that the data collection must be for a limited purpose, and must be clearly understood by the individual providing data.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada should collect biometric data from all non-Canadians.

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency verify all biometrics (photographs and fingerprints) at point of entry for all non-residents’ entry into Canada.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada cross reference the collected biometrics against shared databases.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who will share the responsibility for the collection, use and storage of the biometric information, develop and implement stringent security protections for the databases, to withstand potential cyber-attacks.

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada encourage independent research on the use of biometrics.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends increased cultural awareness training for officers of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and officers of the Canada Border Services Agency for the purpose of identification.

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency remove failed refugee claimants more quickly. 

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency allocate more resources for removals.

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada share information with officers of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to assist them in the screening of applicants in regards to inadmissibility.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that Public Safety Canada ensure that the Canada Border Services Agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service share information in an efficient manner.

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency develop a capacity to collect intelligence outside of Canada.

Recommendation 15

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada establish a framework to determine how Canada can better share intelligence with its allies and how Canada can better expand the intelligence it shares.

Recommendation 16

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada implement information sharing agreements with as many countries as possible.

Recommendation 17

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada implement information sharing agreements between the Canada Border Services Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canadian Revenue Agency.

Recommendation 18

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada sufficiently resource the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Program.

Recommendation 19

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada develop a list of priority countries for security screening.

Recommendation 20

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security intelligence Service create a tiers system, which would allow the Government of Canada to establish broad waivers for classes of individuals inadmissible on security grounds who pose no threat to Canada.

Recommendation 21

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency ensure that their officers involved in section 34 decisions receive specific training.

Recommendation 22

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency use the term Immigration Holding Centre rather than detention centre, to better reflect the nature of these centres.

Recommendation 23

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency review their Immigration Holding Centre service standards and establish a best practices model or operational procedures that could be used for all Immigration Holding Centres.

Recommendation 24

The Committee recommends that, where financially and logistically possible, Immigration and Refugee Board offices and the three official Immigration Holding Centres be at the same locations.

Recommendation 25

The Committee recommends that the Canada Border Services Agency review the use of additional methods of alternatives to detention.

Recommendation 26

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada establish a network of approved labs to provide independent analysis of medical tests.

Recommendation 27

The Committee recommends that Citizenship and Immigration Canada review the objectives of screening for danger to public health.