Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
(Report 1—2020 Spring Reports of the Auditor General of Canada)
24 November 2020
Karen Hogan, Chartered Professional AccountantCPA, Chartered AccountantCA
Auditor General of Canada
Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present the results of our audit report on immigration removals. Joining me is Carol McCalla, the Principal who was responsible for the audit, and Erin Jellinek, who led the audit team.
This audit examined whether the Canada Border Services Agency removed foreign nationals found inadmissible to Canada. Examples include failed asylum claimants, visitors who overstay their visas, or those with criminality. Timely removal supports the fairness of Canada’s immigration system and may deter those who might seek to abuse it. In the case of criminals, their timely removal is important to protect public safety.
Overall, we found that the agency’s approach to managing removal cases had not resulted in the timely removal of inadmissible foreign nationals. The accumulation of enforceable removal orders has been a long-standing issue for the agency. We determined that in April 2019, about 50,000 had accumulated, and many had been enforceable for years. Also, the agency had not known the whereabouts of about two thirds of the individuals ordered to leave.
We found 2 key issues that were affecting the timely removal of foreign nationals. First, the agency’s efforts were hindered by poor data quality, which meant that the agency did not have the information it needed to track enforceable removal orders. For example, orders that the agency should have been monitoring were missing from the inventory. Some orders were delayed because of the poor flow of information between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the agency, while others were filed in the wrong inventory. This meant that the agency did not always know which orders to enforce.
Second, poor case management led to significant periods of inactivity for thousands of cases. The agency did not have an effective system that pushed it to act on removal cases, even high‑priority and time-sensitive ones. For example, we estimated that in its working inventory of enforceable removal orders, the agency had not acted on about 1,500 cases for at least 2 years simply because they had been overlooked. The agency aims to remove failed claimants within a year of a final negative decision. We found that most of these cases had, on average, still been in the working inventory after 4 years and in the wanted inventory of arrest warrants after 10 years.
The agency’s inability to effectively prioritize removal cases is concerning for the small number of criminal cases that may pose a risk to public safety. Criminal cases had been in the agency’s working inventory for an average of 5 years. We estimated that almost 150 cases involving serious criminals had not been worked on—either because they had not been assigned to an officer or because the officer had not taken any action on the case.
Further, we found significant periods of inactivity among the 34,700 cases of foreign nationals whose whereabouts were unknown. These included 2,800 high-priority criminal cases, about 70% of which were not being investigated to determine whether the individuals could be located. Agency officials confirmed that, in general, cases in the wanted inventory are not a priority.
We made 3 recommendations. The agency agreed with all of them and has shared its action plan with us.
Madam Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.