May 4, 2016

Fraud in the Canadian Citizenship Program – Is it a Big Problem?

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Not to sound like a wordsmith but I think it depends on how you define “big”?  Or more to the point, how you define “adequate”?

The Auditor General of Canada (AGC) Report: Detecting and Preventing Fraud in the Citizenship Program, released on May 3rd, 2016 concluded that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) did not adequately detect and prevent fraud to ensure that only adult applicants who met selected eligibility requirements were granted Canadian citizenship.  The AGC also examined whether the Citizenship Program obtained accurate, complete, and timely information from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to inform its decisions to grant citizenship. The Report is a good start, with a fairly narrow focus and raises important considerations and recommendations.  However, I found what is not in the report the most interesting.  Ten questions immediately came to mind:

  1. How prolific is the problem?
  2. How many fraudsters were caught?
  3. How many were missed?
  4. How many could have been detected but to safeguard larger investigations by other agencies were permitted to proceed?
  5. What is the resource allocation?
  6. Has it, or will it, change?
  7. How large is the inventory of citizenship applications?
  8. How does our program compare to similar programs internationally (U.S., U.K., Australia) in terms of fraud detection?
  9. How does our program compare to similar programs internationally (U.S., U.K., Australia) in terms of fraudulent applications that are processed?
  10. What percentage of fraudulent applicants will likely be eliminated by implementing the recommendations?

Some of the numbers require further extrapolation.  Of the 9778 addresses examined, only 12 were problem addresses. By my math, that works out to be less than a tenth of a percent.  Is that significant?  Further, from what I could make out, 11,000 persons are being actively investigated for fraud and 700 revocation cases are ongoing out of an inventory of approximately 300,000 plus cases per year, without factoring in an inventory that is around 3%.  How expensive are revocation proceedings?  The report mentions revocation proceedings are costly but does not provide a number.

Clearly any fraud is too much fraud but the report does not establish a threshold of what is possible when dealing with this many applicants each year and given the resource allocation that has been committed by IRCC, the CBSA, and the RCMP respectively.  The Report does, however, include important findings:

  • Inconsistent application of tools already in place (seizure of passports, data entry, updating -particularly addresses, and follow ups)
  • Better information sharing protocol between the RCMP and CBSA (with the important qualifier that the sharing did not compromise investigations) for persons with criminality, individuals linked to fraud investigations and documentary risk factors.

In all, the CBSA, RCMP and IRCC have accepted improvement is possible and that is key to bringing about positive change.  The report is therefore a good start but how big the problem is cannot be definitely answered by reading the report. More to the point, I cannot agree with the penultimate finding that Canada is not adequately detecting and preventing fraud in the Citizenship Program until the many questions raised above are adequately answered.

If you would like to read more on fraud in the Canadian Citizenship Program, please click here.