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Will Grits stop immigration fraud?

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OP-ED

by Candice Malcolm

Toronto Sun
May 4, 2016

A new federal auditor general’s report confirmed what many Canadians suspected.

It found the government has repeatedly failed to prevent some newcomers from cutting corners and taking advantage of our immigration system.

The report included a laundry list of criticisms levied against security and immigration officials.

Concerns included security agencies, such as the RCMP, failing to share important information about criminals applying for citizenship, and government officials ignoring existing problems with applicants or accepting fraudulent documents without proper vetting.

Canada’s citizenship laws prevent those with criminal backgrounds from being eligible for citizenship, and yet, the auditor general found several cases where citizenship was granted to a person who had committed crimes in Canada.

The report also found cases of people using phony addresses to meet residency requirements. Officials failed to stop one fraud ring that saw at least 50 different applicants using the same address.

The auditor general looked into 49 cases of potential residency fraud and found that in 18, citizenship officials didn’t even follow up to see if the person actually met the residency requirements.

Thanks to this incompetence, which spans several government bureaucracies, dozens of people received Canadian citizenship without fulfilling residency requirements or passing criminal background checks.

Some citizenship cheats have already become citizens; they were sworn in and now enjoy all the privileges and benefits of being Canadian, including access to education, health care and social services. These fraudsters now have the right to vote in elections and to travel with a Canadian passport.

This government failure not only makes Canada vulnerable to those who take advantage of our generosity, it also raises serious security concerns.

This is the same government department that just fast-tracked the sponsorship and resettlement of 25,000 Syrian refugees in just a few months. They plan on admitting another 25,000 refugees in 2016.

If these officials cannot be counted on to double check simple paperwork or follow up on known fraud rings, how are Canadians supposed to trust that no shortcuts are taken in the screening and security backgrounds of refugees from a war zone?

What other mistakes are being made by these officials?

Immigration Minister John McCallum said he welcomed the report, claiming his government has opened investigations into those who fraudulently obtained citizenship.

But why has it taken the auditor general to address the many problems within his department?

Why hasn’t the immigration minister, the public safety minister, parliamentary committees, members of parliament, senators, department officials or even the prime minister addressed these issues already?

It shouldn’t take an audit to point out these serious problems.

The Trudeau government has been in office for six months, and most of the problems laid out in the report predate its tenure.

But when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and McCallum tabled comprehensive changes to the immigration system, they failed to meaningfully address this known fraud.

They could have spent their time addressing abuse and improving the integrity of our borders.

Instead, the Trudeau government is reducing barriers and making it easier to qualify for citizenship. They are reducing residency requirements and eliminating the language test for many newcomers.

Faced with a system that is broken and easy to defraud, Trudeau is saying, let’s make it easier.

His “sunny ways” approach will make these problems much worse.

Photo: Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP

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