Gaps, fraud found in Canada citizenship program

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Several flaws have been found in the process granting Canadian citizenship, according to the Spring Report 2016, tabled by Attorney General Michael Ferguson in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“Overall, we found that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada was not adequately detecting and preventing fraud in the Citizenship Program. The Department did not have a systematic method of identifying and documenting fraud risks in the Citizenship Program and did not verify that the measures it implemented to detect and prevent fraud were working as intended.”

“We found that some important controls designed to help citizenship officers identify and act on fraud risks were not consistently applied. We also found that the Department was not reliably receiving from its partners—the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency—important information on criminal charges and potential residency fraud that citizenship officers need to make informed decisions about granting citizenship,” Ferguson’s report said.

Many of the citizenships granted were based information that was fraudulent or incomplete. However, the department was not fully to blame becuase officials were not getting data on time from the RCMP and border officials to closely inspect cases of suspect documents.

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“These findings are important because failing to carry out essential steps, such as obtaining necessary information and conducting adequate analysis, creates gaps in the process that make it easier for people to obtain citizenship when they may not be eligible. Since revoking citizenship after it has been granted is costly, while the cost to grant it is far less, it is important to ensure that only eligible applicants receive it in the first place,” Ferguson said.

“People with serious criminal records and others using potentially phoney addresses are among those who managed to secure Canadian citizenship, thanks to a system that doesn’t do enough to root out fraud, the auditor general has found.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not consistently apply its own methods to identify and prevent fraud during the citizenship application process.

“This finding matters because ineligible individuals may obtain Canadian citizenship and receive benefits to which they are not entitled. Revoking citizenship that should not have been granted takes significant time and money,” Ferguson wrote.

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To meet residency requirements for their citizenship applications, individuals sometimes use an address that is known or suspected to be associated with fraud. The Department refers to these as “problem addresses.” When a new applicant presents a problem address, it should raise a red flag in the Department’s database (called the Global Case Management System, or GCMS).

“To test whether addresses identified as problematic by the Department were flagged as such in the database, we examined the addresses of 9,778 of the 106,271 adults who had submitted citizenship applications in 2014 and had been granted citizenship by June 2015. Six of the individuals had addresses that GCMS correctly identified as problematic. We were able to find 6 more individuals with problem addresses that were not flagged in GCMS”, the report said.

It was pointed out that in on example of fraud, it took seven years for authorities to realize that a single address had been used by at 50 different applicants . Of the 50, seven became Canadian citizens. A second investigation by the Agency linked 21 problem addresses to multiple individuals. Three of these addresses had not been added to the Department’s list of problem addresses.

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In 18 of the 49 cases, citizenship officers did not request additional evidence as required to verify whether the applicant met residency requirements.

The auditor general also found lengthy vacancies at the IRB, as well as at the specific claims tribunal, which handles decisions on First Nations claims against the Crown. Tthe vacancies contribute to delays in tribunal decisions, leading to wait times of an average of 18 months.

It was recommended that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the RCMP should revise their procedures to clarify how and when to share information on criminal charges against permanent residents and foreign nationals, and should review the optimal timing of the criminal clearance process. – CINEWS

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