Crackdown on Canadian Citizenship Applicants

By Author: Admin | February 8, 2010

The February 2 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail contained an article stating that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will ‘crack down’ on unscrupulous immigration consultants after it was revealed that the RCMP are investigating as many as 300 citizenship applicants who claimed to live at the same address.

What does this mean in reality?  First, the processing of citizenship applications is clearly within the mandate of Minister Jason Kenney’s department.  It is an embarrassment to his bureaucracy that 300 citizenship applications are apparently completely fraudulent.  This cheapens the value of Canadian citizenship.  To overcome this bureaucratic gaffe, tough talk must be employed, hence the phrase “crackdown”.

The crackdown consists of proposed amendments to the regulations, “that will include much more severe penalties for furnishing people with advice to commit fraud or [submit] fraudulent documents.”    The Minister did not specify what the proposed regulations would consist of.  However, it is worth mentioning that as they stand, the current law imposes stiff penalties for counseling somebody to lie on an immigration application:

126. Every person who knowingly counsels, induces, aids or abets or attempts to counsel, induce, aid or abet any person to directly or indirectly misrepresent or withhold material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act is guilty of an offence.

128. A person who contravenes a provision of section 126…is guilty of an offence and liable

(a) on conviction on indictment, to a fine of not more than $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years, or to both; or

(b) on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years, or to both.

Given the relatively stiff penalties already present, the problem of fraudulent citizenship applications doesn’t appear to be one that can be allayed through penalties.

Mr. Kenney acknowledged that the problem is widespread having attended citizenship interviews at the Mississauga Citizenship office.  He told the Globe and Mail, “I myself went and sat in on some interviews that our officials had with citizenship applicants recently in Mississauga, and I saw cases where an applicant was living at an address where 25 other people were supposedly living – 25 other applicants for citizenship were registered.”

A contact I have spoken to at the Canada Border Services Agency tell me that the Citizenship branch of Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration department is a “Mickey Mouse” outfit.  This might be true, given the largely boilerplate decisions that are issued by citizenship judges.  Some citizenship judges may be sensitized to this perception, given the propensity of some citizenship judges to interrogate legitimate citizenship applicants over the slightest aberration in their citizenship application.  My immigration law practice has benefited from clients with otherwise solid citizenship applications who who hired me after going through a harsh and threatening Canadian citizenship interview.  My assistance to these clients invariably consists of simply citing the law and asking the citizenship judge to apply it.

The Globe and Mail was also told by the Minister of Immigration, “We are developing some techniques to track that kind of obvious evidence of fraud.”  This is quite likely true.  It is not a difficult exercise to acquire some software that engages in data mining, looking for common traits in more than one citizenship application, such as an implausibly large amount of people residing at the same address.

Keeping with the fact that the Globe and Mail is a newspaper of record, it mentioned in the second paragraph, “The case revolves around an address located in the same building as Palestine House, a Mississauga centre that offers language classes and settlement services to new immigrants and also acts as an advocate for Palestinian and Arab causes,” all of which is accurate.  It was wise to position this connection to Palestine House not in the headline, or the first paragraph, but in a position further down.  This would allay concerns that the Globe and Mail is pandering to the anti-immigrant sentiment that is in every developed country to some degree or other.  That task would be left to other newspapers with more expansive sports sections and prolific advertising of electronics.  The Globe and Mail article also mentioned that it was an immigration consultant that rented space from Palestine House in 2007 before disappearing, who is of interest to the RCMP.  This latter fact also properly distances the fraudulent immigration consultant from his landlords at Palestine House.

The Minister said another part of his strategy will involve reaching beyond Canadian borders to influence foreign governments in major immigration source countries. He said something must be done to tackle the “Wild West environment for immigration consultants” in those jurisdictions, where consultants promote ways to beat Canada’s laws and obtain citizenship without really living in the country. However, he did admit that the likelihood of cooperation from foreign governments would be highly unlikely when he added, “India, for example, has no legislation on this at all. Nothing,” and, “It may be a bit Pollyannaish of me to think that it will actually have an effect, but I think we need to push this as a diplomatic priority in these countries.”

What Canada’s immigration department won’t admit is that the more immigration applications they receive, the better.  With some exceptions, it does not matter to the immigration department that an application for Canadian immigration or Canadian citizenship is represented by someone who is competent.  The ideal is to receive as many applications as possible which would justify funding to Canada’s immigration department.  Applications for Canadian visas which are assisted by ‘ghost consultants’ tend to be easier to refuse than applications completed with the assistance of a Canadian immigration lawyer (which are characterized by the citation of law and adducing of evidence).

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