Immigration Screening & Enforcement Improvements

As this issue of Frontline Security demonstrates, a critical part of border security is the detection and interdiction of guns and drugs, and now people, that criminals, and possibly worse, are trying to smuggle into Canada. Getting it right in border security is essential because what gets through at the border inevitably ends up on the streets of our communities, and this means more criminal activity and less public safety. As great a challenge as that is, especially for a country of our size and terrain, Scott Newark explains that second component of border security that has been largely overlooked for decades...

Comprehensive border security in today’s increasingly mobile world of international travel and sophisticated phoney documents also includes properly screening exactly who it is that shows up at a port of entry as well as ensuring effective enforcement by removal of non citizens who are not entitled to be in Canada. Once again, deficiencies in immigration screening and enforcement can have an all too frequent consequence of reduced safety and security in Canada.

While the federal Government and its multiplicity of acronymed Agencies continue their glacial pace at addressing illicit traffic between ports of entry, the distinctly good news is that there has been an unprecedented series of targeted reforms in the past year to improve immigration screening and enforcement. These measures are especially impressive because they authorize effective security measures while cutting through the arcane maze that is the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Much credit on this file is due to Minister Kenney, his dedicated (and tireless) political staff and a motivated Department led by Deputy Minister Neal Yeates who embraced and led substantive internal change rather than trotting out the traditional ‘no can do’ response. I understand the federal Department of Justice is still in shock.  

The changes are found in a variety of Bills that have recently been passed by Parliament (C-11; C-31 and C-45) or are in the final stages of Review by the Senate (C-43). They are also supported by a series of policy actions undertaken by the Department and by published Regulatory enactments. Rather than attempt a single massive overhaul, the changes have been carefully crafted to address specific problems. The result, however, is a cumulative upgrade to the efficiency and effectiveness of our immigration system.

In just over a year, the reforms include:

  • Authorizing the Minister to designate organized human smuggling operations that deliberately avoid pre arrival screening as ‘irregular arrivals’ with defined disincentives like reduced bail reviews, restrictions on sponsorship and increased penalties for the criminal smugglers. Originating from the Sun Sea and Ocean Lady Tamil human smuggling incidents, the new power has been invoked for the first time for the organized smuggling of Roma ‘refugees’ that entered Canada through unguarded roads in Quebec;
  • Required biometric (face and finger) screening of designated Temporary Residence Permit applicants from 29 designated countries and the Palestinian Authority;
  • Requiring Electronic Travel Authorization screening from non visa countries (hopefully to be supported by face recognition biometric screening matched to a ‘bad guy’ lookout database);
  • Authorizing pre departure information sharing to ascertain ‘No Fly’ status and inadmissibility (yup…we used to do it after the plane took off)
  • Expedited refugee processing from 29 (so far) designated ‘safe’ countries (like the US, Mexico and EU) with reduced appeals from denials (Getting the Americans on board to improve the Safe Third Country Agreement and extending it to the EU and others is the ultimate goal but this is an enormous first step that will save Canadians tens of millions of dollars ­annually and improve systemic processing of legitimate ­applications.)   
  • Requiring that removal of inadmissible persons be done ‘as soon as possible’ rather than ‘as soon as reasonably practical’ which tended to mean ‘when we get around to it’ or ‘as long as it’s not controversial’ in CBSA-speak

Soon to be enacted are two other important improvements found in C-43:

  • Reduced appeals and expedited removal of non citizens that are convicted of crimes in Canada and receive a custodial sentence of six months or more;
  • Expanded discretion based on defined ‘public policy’ security considerations for the Minister to deny admissibility to individuals with annual reporting to Parliament      

These measures clearly support the security enhancements intended by Canada-US Beyond the Border Agreement. They also demonstrate the benefit of developing and deploying a face recognition biometric ‘bad guy’ database for port of entry screening rather than just looking at the documents presented. This point was specifically made by Minister Kenney while testifying at Committee as he referenced actual case examples previously cited by Frontline Security. A good sign to say the least.

The momentum created by these important improvements will almost certainly generate activity at CBSA and the RCMP as both agencies will be involved in the enhanced screening systems. Let’s hope it also serves as a model for Public Safety Minister Toews to direct both agencies to step up and candidly identify what’s required in joint force personnel (that includes CBSA) and automated, analytical sensor surveillance technology to provide what’s needed between ports of entry.

We appear to be off to a good start in 2013. Over to you, ­Minister Toews.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor, Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association and security advisor to Governments in Canada.
© FrontLine Security 2013