Canada has become home to thousands of foreign nationals guilty of perpetuating war crimes, espionage and terrorism abroad. Between 2014 and 2019, nearly half of the foreign nationals flagged by security agencies still reside here.
According to an internal audit, Immigration Canada permitted 46% of the more than 7,000 cases flagged by the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) to enter the country.
During the period reflected in the document, CBSA collaborated with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on the Immigration National Security Screening Program to oversee security screenings of "inadmissible foreign nationals or permanent residents."
The security screeners would review residency applications and refugee claims flagged by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as posing a potential security risk. They would assess the severity of alleged crimes committed by the applicant and submit a recommendation to IRCC officers.
"All adult individuals who submit a refugee claim in Canada aged 18 and older are subject to the front-end security screening process," wrote auditors.
The screeners flagged 7,141 cases over five years and sent the IRCC a "non-favourable" recommendation. Of that, 3,314 could enter Canada. According to Blacklock's Reporter, screeners flagged 7,673 people.
"Due to multiple factors and considerations, the Department of Immigration authorized entry or permission to stay in Canada to a significant proportion of applicants who had received a non-favourable recommendation or an inconclusive screening," said the audit, Evaluation Of The Immigration National Security Screening Program by the Canada Border Services Agency.
It also revealed that 1,887 individuals entered Canada after another government department pushed their applications to be approved "in the national interest for high-profile foreign nationals who are inadmissible" through a "public-policy exemption."
Of the remaining applications approved, only 177 received the nod owing to disagreements between the IRCC and CBSA.
"That's super concerning," said criminologist Kelly Sundberg. The former border services officer claimed there is "a disconnect between the partner agencies engaged in the processing of foreign nationals."
He said if CBSA concludes a foreign national shouldn't be let in, then that should be the definitive answer. IRCC spokesperson Nancy Caron said IRCC officers, not the CBSA, make the final decision on admissibility.
She contends that exemptions exist if "it is deemed that the entry of this person is in Canada's interest" but only on "a case-by-case and exceptional basis." However, the audit did not explain why Immigration Canada granted many public-policy exemptions.
"When it happens 46% of the time, why even bother having CBSA then? Why did you ask them in the first place if you're flipping a coin?" said Sundberg. "That's not how migration and border security should work."
Under the audit, Caron said none of those 1,887 people permitted into the country have faced "enforcement actions" since stepping foot on Canadian soil. Sundberg clapped back, calling that argument "rubbish."
"It should be noted that not all risk is captured through enforcement actions, nor can it be fully monitored through surveillance," reads the audit.
"Having these individuals in Canada could have negative consequences for the country's reputation or result in actions that are more difficult to intercept and act on (e.g. business espionage or threatening Canadian residents), particularly as most of these individuals are short-term visitors."
While no explanation was disclosed publicly on granting public policy exemptions, it did highlight two 'major and unexpected influxes of applications' during the five years covered by the audit.
Firstly, Ottawa resettled over 26,000 Syrians to Canada within three months of December 2015 under Operation Syrian Refugee. Secondly, the influx of 55,000 migrants entering Canada — mainly through Roxham Road — between July 2017 and March 2020.
Additionally, the audit revealed that in most cases provided with an "inconclusive" finding, the IRCC allowed them into the country. An inconclusive assessment happens "when concerns may exist and cannot be ruled out.
"On the other hand, without specific information indicating inadmissibility, the IRCC officers generally do not have sufficient grounds to deny the application," reads the document.
Caron confirmed that applicants with an "inconclusive" designation by CBSA made it hard to deny an application, as they would have to defend their decision in court pending an appeal. However, the audit noted they could nevertheless be of 'serious concern' to the government.
"One individual with an inconclusive screening result was authorized entry to Canada but was later alleged to be a member of a terrorist organization and ended up in the Removal inventory (for deportation); as such, the risk to public safety of this individual being in Canada was potentially very high," read the report.
CBSA auditors also found that 295 of the over 420,000 applications with a favourable recommendation were later subject to an investigation. Half of those applicants were found to have ties to terrorist organizations.
Of another 14,290 foreigners whose files the CBSA marked "inconclusive," meaning that "concerns may exist and cannot be ruled out" due to missing paperwork, they allowed 11,575 or 81% to enter Canada.
"Only 10% were refused," wrote auditors. "The remaining applications were withdrawn or were pending a decision."
Blacklock's Reporter uncovered that of the 13,287 people ordered deported since 2016, only 6,322 left Canada. An Inquiry Of Ministry tabled in the Commons confirmed the rest "are still awaiting enforcement."