Keeping an eye on CBSA deportations

Canada Border Services Agency says it will 'substantially' increase deportations: Let’s keep an eye on what actually happens.

In late October, CBC News reported that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had established new increased targets for actual removals of non-citizens who have been ordered removed/deported from Canada. According to internal CBSA documents, the Agency will be seeking to remove up to 10,000 persons a year which represents a 25-35 per cent annual increase in current removals, but is much lower thant 2013 levels of more than 15,000.

The inefficiency of Canada's deportation system has long been a matter of public concern and was  recently detailed by FrontLine in an analysis that focused on the negative public consequences of this deficiency when the deportees are ordered removed on criminality and security grounds. 


The FrontLine analysis confirmed earlier reports from the Auditor General (from as far back as 2008), which revealed more than 41,000 outstanding arrest warrants (updated in 2011 to 44,000) for people who had been ordered removed from Canada.

This latest announcement comes at a time when public confidence in the Government’s handling of the illegal border crossers issue is declining dramatically especially as it has been revealed that fewer than 1% of the 28,000 illegal entrants have been removed from Canada in the past two years. On camera, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale also referenced an additional allocation funds to assist in the enhanced removals effort. Internal documents put that number at $7.5M but JP Fortin, the National President of the union representing front line immigration enforcement officers subsequently advised that no special program has been set up and no new officers are being hired to work in this already severely understaffed area. Will the additional funds actually go to increase enforcement personnel, or will it go to paying for more hotel rooms for illegal entrants?

It is also unclear who the targets of this enhanced removal effort will be. This is important because removing criminals, war criminals and others who pose a security risk should be the priority rather than achieving quota targets by removing the ‘low hanging fruit’ of overstaying visa holders or failed refugee claimants.

CBSA has confirmed that there are 18,000 cases currently in the deportation backlog, most of whom are failed refugee claimants. Additionally, the flood of illegal entrants seeking refugee status has now resulted in a delay of approximately two years before the case is even heard.

As FrontLine has identified, delays are caused by duplicative rights of hearings and appeals, legal barriers for criminal deportees, applications for Ministerial exemptions, non-cooperation from countries of origin, and a right to application for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. Put simply, increasing removal targets is a good idea but the entire legal process needs a complete modernization.

This concern about the increased removals objectives was reinforced within days when Immigration Minister Hossain announced the Government’s future immigration plans. Despite multiple public opinion polls that show a lack of support for increased immigration levels, the new targets will see the entry by 2021 of 350,000 new permanent residents per year. In addition to this, the Trudeau government also intends to increase the number of temporary foreign workers given entry to Canada to 250,000 per year even though Canada has a domestic unemployment rate of over 5%. These numbers also do not appear to include the ‘irregular’ refugee claimants which, at an average of 14,000 per year to date, would mean 70,000 additional entrants if the current trend continues.

These are big numbers. As with the intended increased removals, this will require an increase in front line CBSA personnel to adequately perform the screening that is required. CBSA is currently suffering from a significant shortage of operational and intelligence personnel due to staffing cuts that began under the previous Harper government and which continues today as attrition rates are not being addressed by sufficient new hires. Like the inland immigration enforcement situation, this operational screening staffing shortage must be addressed to ensure public safety.

While Canadians have a long and valued history of welcoming immigrants to our country, there is also a legitimate expectation that the people who come here share our commitment to existing societal principles and values and that they will successfully integrate into our society by completing their education, getting a full time job or starting a business that creates jobs and adds to domestic economic prosperity. Loafing on welfare or languishing in prison after committing crimes is not an acceptable ‘outcome’ and we need a system that effectively removes those people from our country.

Both of these announced and ‘leaked’ initiatives, therefore, need to be closely monitored to measure the relevant results. They should also serve as a catalyst to finally modernize and improve our immigration enforcement system. Among the actions that need to be taken are:

  • Annual reporting on the number of removals including reason for removal (visa overstay; refugee denial, inadmissibility based on criminality, security, war crimes, dependency, misrepresentation, etc…);
  • Annual reporting of number of illegal entries from country of origin and actual removals;  
  • Annual reporting of outstanding removal arrest warrants;
  • Annual reporting of number of non-citizens convicted of crimes including country of origin;
  • Increased hiring of inland enforcement and intelligence/screening personnel at CBSA to resolve shortages with annual reporting thereof;
  • Deployment of GPS Electronic Monitoring by CBSA on persons awaiting removal to ensure compliance with release orders;
  • Modernization of Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Corrections and Conditional Release Act and International Transfer of Offenders Act to remove unnecessary delays and expedite removal of criminal and security deportees;
  • Specific case analysis, including security deportee Othman Hamdan, to identify systemic deficiencies;
  • Identification of non-cooperative countries regarding return of deportees with possible suspension of international aid and immigration acceptance until cooperation is achieved;
  • Modernization of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the US to eliminate current exceptions and extension of agreement with other countries.

These are important public safety and systemic integrity issues where improvements are both necessary and achievable. Carefully monitoring the actions taken, or not taken, is the best way to ensure positive results or at least accountability.

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor who has also served as Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Vice Chair of the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, Director of Operations for Investigative Project on Terrorism and as a Security Policy Advisor to the governments of Ontario and Canada.