Gaps in Ottawa’s detection of citizenship fraud, auditor finds

I did not find this OAG study all that surprising, particularly the challenges of maintaining accurate and consistent database records (e.g., spelling of addresses) and the lack of consistent follow-up to any cases flagged.

One of the lasting legacies of the Conservative government was increased attention to the integrity of the program, beyond the issues identified in the OAG report (e.g., rotating citizenship test questions, more rigorous and consistent language assessment, and the integrity measures of C-24).

But like many OAG reports, it is weak with respect to the materiality of fraud and the gaps it uncovered.

Six addresses out of 9,778 that IRCC officials missed is 0.06 percent. Other aspects are more problematic, multiple versions of addresses in particular, as well as lack of follow-up to warning flags and coordination between IRCC and RCMP or CBSA.

IRCC’s own number of revocation cases pending is 700, again a relatively small number (0.14 percent) compared to  the large numbers of new citizens in the past two years (500,000). And of course there is no comparative data in the report on permanent residency, EI, CPP or other program fraud to relate compare these numbers with.

So while any fraud is by definition unacceptable, the realities of large programs means that some degree, as small as possible, is inevitable, and ongoing attention to reducing its incidence is necessary:

Canada’s immigration department did not properly detect and prevent citizenship fraud, resulting in the review of some 700 citizenship cases as of January, according to Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s spring report.

The report, tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday morning, found a number of concerns in the citizenship program affecting the department’s capability to prevent citizenship fraud, including the absence of a method to identify and document fraud risks.

“We concluded that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) efforts to detect and prevent citizenship fraud were not adequate,” said Mr. Ferguson in a prepared statement. “These gaps make it difficult for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to assess the impacts of its efforts to combat citizenship fraud.”

…According to the report, the most common reasons for revoking citizenship are residency and identity fraud, and undeclared criminal proceedings.

The report found that citizenship officers did not consistently apply their own methods to identify and prevent fraud when dealing with suspicious immigration documents, such as altered passports. For example, in one region, citizenship officers did not seize any suspicious documents for in-depth analysis since at least 2010, while they did in another.

It was also found that citizenship officers did not have the information they needed to properly identify “problem addresses” when making decisions to grant citizenship. Problem addresses are those known or suspected to be associated with fraud, and used by citizenship applicants to meet residency requirements for citizenship.

“For example, one address was not identified as a problem even though it had been used by 50 different applicants, seven of whom were granted citizenship,” said Mr. Ferguson.

The problem was further complicated by poor sharing of information with the RCMP, which provides information about criminal behaviour among permanent residents, and the Canada Border Services Agency, which leads investigations of immigration fraud, said the report.

While the department did not track the exact number of citizenship fraud risks, it reported 700 pending revocation cases as of January. According to the report, revoking citizenship after fraud is discovered is “time consuming and costly.”

Source: Gaps in Ottawa’s detection of citizenship fraud, auditor finds – The Globe and Mail,

Dozens of fraudsters and suspected criminals became Canadian citizens, watchdog says in damning report

Liberals order investigation into possible citizenship fraud

C-6 Citizenship Act: Clause-by-clause review

No major surprises as CIMM reviewed the draft bill. The NDP tabled 25 amendments, the Conservatives three, and Elizabeth May eight.

The Conservatives noted their objections to the reduced residency requirements, the repeal of the intent to reside provision, the reduction in knowledge and language testing to 18 to 54 from 14 to 64, and revocation in cases of terror or treason. They also tabled an amendment having a five-year review provision (not part of the Conservatives’ C-24) which the Government-side voted down.

The Bill was approved, with a few minor amendments, largely on party lines, and will be reported to Parliament.

The discussed amendments included:

Admissable

Citizenship applications by youth (under 18, NDP and CPC): Government side voted this down, arguing that Minister had adequate flexibility to waive requirement when merited.

Submission of tax returns (CPC): Richard Kurland’s recommendation to clarify the language in the Act to make it a requirement to file taxes when applying. Passed.

Accommodation for persons with disabilities (NDP): Discussion focused on existing accommodation practices, whether this also covered invisible disabilities such as cognitive or learning disabilities and whether or not existing practices and legislation like the Canadian Human Rights Act were adequate. In end, CIMM adopted unanimously to send stronger signal.

Youth criminality (NDP) and not allowing youth criminal records to be considered for citizenship: Defeated with government arguing that existing protections – serious charges, free from record for four years – were appropriate rather than wholesale ban.

Knowledge and language test (allowing interpreter for knowledge – NDP): Government stated that the knowledge test was specified in the Act. The review of Discover Canada, including its language level, would make it easier for people. However, language was critical to integration and the Government defeated the amendment.

Inadmissible (outside scope of C-6)

Restoration or creation of an appeal process in cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation (NDP): Although out-of-scope, the NDP noted the earlier signals of the Minister with respect to being open to reviewing the issue and expressed hope that the Minister would come back in the fall, recommending an expansion of the Immigration Appeal Division’s role to include citizenship revocation cases (for fraud or misrepresentation).

Statelessness and remaining ‘Lost Canadians’ (NDP): One of the few statelessness amendments to be considered admissible was in relation to revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation. Defeated.

Changes in oath to include TRC recommendation 94 (reference to treaties with Indigenous peoples (NDP)

Ability to suspend application processing indefinitely (NDP)

 

 

Stop making these excuses for the lack of diversity at your company: Johnathan Nightingale, Hubba

Some practical advice on how to increase diversity in the tech industry and elsewhere:

Learn to search blindfolded

A funny thing happens when you take faces and names off of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. People who would insist that they have no bias or prejudice suddenly start evaluating candidates differently. You find candidates you somehow missed before. Unconscious bias isn’t a bleeding-heart liberal codeword, it’s a real threat to your business and your ability to find top talent. We now use the Unbias browser addon to automatically hide names and faces on LinkedIn. Try it. It really does change the quality of candidate searches, whether it ought to or not.

Cast a broader net

A job posting has one goal: to get good candidates excited enough to start a conversation. Every time a position you post reaches some great people, but they decide not to apply, your hiring program has failed. When a marketing program fails the answer is not to complain that there aren’t enough people out there; the answer is to market smarter. A job posting is no different.

Services like Textio can help you analyze your job descriptions to find obvious points for improvement, but they’re also useful for starting conversations about what you’re really looking for. A long list of bullet-point requirements feels natural, but understand that those lists implicitly select for men, who will apply when they meet a much smaller portion of them. In tech, a common pattern is for hiring managers to say “I don’t care who you are, just show me your hobby projects on Github, or your think pieces on Medium” – but a bit of reflection is all it takes to realize that screening based on free-time pursuits gets you more affluent white men than it does underemployed single moms.

Build the best team

The most pernicious theme I hear from people in hiring positions is that they don’t want to “lower the bar” – that they’d happily hire a more diverse group but not at the cost of individual candidate quality. It sounds rational but it’s wrong-headed for two reasons. First, the implication that any current diversity gap must be a result of lower quality stinks, and ignores everything we know about the barriers many groups face. But second is that it misunderstands your job as a leader.

Your job is to build the best team. You can choose a lot of strategies to get there. But if your strategy is to hire “the best candidate” for each role without regard to the team’s composition, and it’s leaving you with a weaker, less diverse team, then your strategy is failing and it needs to change.

Source: Stop making these excuses for the lack of diversity at your company – The Globe and Mail

New citizen takes stand against swearing allegiance to the Queen

Another one:

Srabon Salim loves Canada. The Queen? Not so much.

Immediately after taking the oath during a citizenship ceremony in Prince George on Friday, he presented a letter to the judge announcing he has disavowed his pledge of allegiance to the Queen.

“My core values can’t accept the medieval idea of monarchy in 2016 as it creates social divisions and hereditary hierarchy in social privileges,” Salim says in the letter, which he also sent to John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “I highly regard that every child’s birth is royal for every parent. It is hard for me to regard someone as ‘royal’ simply because he/she was born in a so-called ‘royal’ family. I like to look at my three little boys with a high pride of self esteem that they are socially equal to any other member in this Canadian society.”

A mechanical engineer at Canfor Pulp, Salim, 38, grew up in Bangladesh but has also lived in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, the Netherlands and even England before he and his wife, Famina, 32, decided Canada is where they want to settle down.

It was while studying for the citizenship test that he learned he would have to swear allegiance to the Queen.

“We had been looking forward to staying in this country and then this pledge thing,” Salim said in an interview. “It was actually bothering me…I thought that I have to do something about this.”

Source: New citizen takes stand against swearing allegiance to the Queen

RCMP changes application requirements, with permanent residents welcome to apply

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001RCMP employment equity reports consistently show under-representation as the above chart shows. The citizenship requirement change will make a slight difference: after 10 years, about 65 percent of visible minorities are citizens, with the percentage rising to 80 percent after 15 years:

The RCMP has changed its application requirements, with more people now eligible to apply to be a Mountie and some applicants not needing to take some of the previously mandatory tests.

Up until now, Mounties had to be Canadian citizens. But under the changes that took effect today, permanent residents who have lived in Canada for at least 10 years are eligible to apply.

The shift could only help the RCMP meet its target for 20 per cent of its ranks to be comprised of visible minorities.

Last summer, the RCMP exempted university graduates from taking the national police force’s entrance exam. Now, people with a minimum two-year college diploma may also skip the exam, which tests a person’s aptitude for police work.

There are also changes to the physical abilities requirement evaluation. Previously, prospective recruits had to complete the test at their own expense before submitting an application. Going forward, RCMP applicants won’t have to perform the test until they’ve been accepted at the RCMP’s training academy in Regina — called Depot Division — and the Mounties will cover the cost.

The RCMP says it will reimburse the $79 fee to anyone who completed the test between Jan. 1 and March 15, 2016.

These are big changes for the national police force; the RCMP Act says members of the RCMP must be citizens. The only exception is when there is no one available for appointment who meets all the criteria except citizenship.

It suggests the Mounties may not be receiving enough applications to keep up with the pace of retirements or meet the demands of its policing contracts with several provinces. That could explain a notice on the RCMP website that reads: “In order to meet organizational needs, applicants from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba will have the opportunity to select their home province for their first post following graduation.”

Source: RCMP changes application requirements, with permanent residents welcome to apply – Politics – CBC News

La langue au Québec, un casse-tête pour l’immigrant

More on Quebec’s francophone immigration challenge:

L’intégration en emploi des nouveaux arrivants francophones pose problème, surtout pour ces immigrants qui ne parlent pas anglais. Le taux de chômage des immigrants (admis depuis cinq ans ou moins) qui ne parlent que le français — en plus, souvent, de leur langue maternelle autre — atteint 23 %. Mais ceux-ci restent au Québec dans une proportion qui dépasse 85 %, contrairement aux immigrants qui parlent anglais et qui sont beaucoup plus mobiles.

La discrimination dont font preuve les employeurs ainsi que les problèmes de reconnaissance des compétences nuisent à l’embauche de ces immigrants francophones. Mais l’exigence généralisée du bilinguisme en emploi représente un autre frein pour eux. Dans ce contexte, doit-on prévenir les candidats à l’immigration du Maghreb, de la Côte d’Ivoire ou du Sénégal qu’ils devront apprendre l’anglais s’ils désirent s’installer dans la région de Montréal ? La ministre croit que non. « Nous, on ne peut pas lancer un autre message [qu’au Québec, ça se passe en français], a affirmé Kathleen Weil au Devoir. On veut attirer des gens qui veulent vivre en français au Québec. »

Le MIDI agira sur trois plans : choisir davantage de candidats qui parlent français (95 % des candidats sélectionnés — issus l’immigration dite économique — disent parler français), favoriser une meilleure adéquation avec le marché du travail grâce à un nouveau mode de sélection et, enfin, renforcer les services de francisation et d’intégration. En matière de francisation, après les coupes des deux dernières années, le MIDI peut compter en 2016 sur 4 millions de plus par rapport à 2015.

La langue de travail

Mais le MIDI ne peut rien au regard de la langue de travail des immigrants. Le chômage chez les immigrants francophones, « c’est sûr que c’est désolant », juge la ministre. « Le mot n’est pas trop fort. On travaille tellement fort pour aller chercher des gens qui parlent français. »

Source: La langue au Québec, un casse-tête pour l’immigrant | Le Devoir

How Asimina Arvanitaki will explain the universe: The case for open-ended research

Interesting interview with Arvanitaki, the recently appointed chair at the Perimeter Institute – liked her response to the last question particularly:

Q: …. the last federal government had a real focus on scientific research that had a direct industry-based application. And they structured funding based on things that they thought would bring money in…

A: Can I say something? I’m Greek and I’m allowed to say this, I think. The model of ancient Greece, right, take Socrates, all these great people, no one asked them to invent the next quantum computer. They were allowed to think about whatever they wanted to, and this is how a great civilization came about. I think leaving people to think, and that doesn’t go just for physicists. I think it applies to everything. It applies to art, literature. I think this is the part that basically makes us human, so I don’t think this is a waste no matter what the outcome. I don’t think this can be a waste.

Source: How Asimina Arvanitaki will explain the universe

Citizenship Act bill: An overview of what the committee witnesses had to say

Versions of this post originally appeared in IRPP’s Perspectives and The Hill Times:

A Commons committee has finished hearing witnesses on the proposed changes to the Citizenship Act in Bill C-6, and is proceeding to clause-by-clause examination of the legislation. Contrasting the nature of the committee testimony with that of Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, some two-years ago reveals similarities and differences. A number of suggestions were broadly in line with the government’s overall agenda of diversity and inclusion, and it will be interesting if the government responds to these in amendments to the bill.

Starting with the common elements between the two sets of hearings:

  • An almost complete absence of Quebec-based witnesses and French-speaking witnesses, and thus any Quebec-specific citizenship issues that may reflect its different mix of source countries, particularly from the Maghreb, where revocation, or removal of citizenship, would likely be a particular concern;
  • An almost complete lack of statistical data with witnesses talking either in conceptual terms, anecdotal examples, or principles, without any reference to the numbers of people potentially affected by the changes. Assertions by those impacted, for better or worse, by the previous or current Bill, would benefit from the hard numbers;
  • Both sets of hearings ensured different perspectives.

However, a number of significant differences between the study of the two bills, reflecting the change in government, are also notable:

  • 18 witnesses for C-6 compared to 28 for C-24, reflecting the broader scope of C-24 and a likely tighter timeline under the current government;
  • About 40 percent of witnesses broadly supported the revocation of citizenship provision during the study of the Conservative government’s C-24, in contrast to about 25 percent during the study of C-6, reflecting the previous administration having ensured a majority of witnesses in support of the most controversial change;
  • A generally more open tone in discussion and the questioning of witnesses by all parties. The witnesses for the most part recognized that a change in government meant a needed change in tone and approach. Shimon Fogal of the Canadian Israel Jewish Advocacy exemplified this approach, going out of his way to recognize the arguments against revocation while maintaining his position in favour of it. James Bissett and Martin Collacott, both former public servants with immigration experience, did not, thus undermining their arguments as they largely repeated themselves and their tone from previous testimony.
  • Predictably, witnesses that favour an easier pathway to citizenship, while welcoming the proposed changes of C-6, focused on what they perceived as remaining gaps: procedural protections for revocation of citizenship in cases of fraud or misrepresentation; barriers to refugees and some immigrants with respect to more difficult knowledge test and language assessments;  the need for exceptions to the requirement of physical presence in Canada and not merely the possession of a legal address; and the high cost of citizenship fees ($630) and language assessments (about $200) for all applicants.

Minister McCallum did express some openness to amendments and the nature of the questions from Liberal MPs suggested the same flexibility. While the extent of this willingness is unclear, the following is my take on possible amendments, based on their broad consistency with the government’s “diversity and inclusion agenda” and the principles and philosophy behind Bill C-6:

  • Revocation for fraud or misrepresentation: C-24 removed the rights or «procedural protections » that those facing revocation faced, including recourse to the Federal Court, leaving revocation at the discretion of the Minister and delegated officials. There was broad support to ensure those protections were made comparable to those in place for revocation of permanent residency, which provides for an oral hearing. Some argued for reverting back to the former process requiring a Federal Court ruling, which was lengthy. Others argued for the Immigration Review Board (IRB) to expand its mandate to include citizenship hearings, which would require additional resources.
  • Language and knowledge testing: The government responded to public pressure by reverting to the previous age range of 18 to 54 for the testing, but did not (wisely in my opinion), allow the knowledge test to be taken with an interpreter. The revision of the study guide, Discover Canada, and the related citizenship test questions, will presumably (and should) include a complete rewrite into plain language. This would address many but not all of the issues raised by witnesses, without a further weakening of the language requirements, with language skills so important to integration.
  • Physical presence requirement: This provides a clear and common sense definition of residency. However, given the nature of a more mobile and global world, particularly for many economic immigrants, there is a strong case for some forms of defined exemptions. These exemptions could include those who work for a Canadian company abroad, or leave the country for health and compassionate grounds. Or the exemptions could revert to the previous, broader guidance provided to citizenship judges.
  • Citizenship fees: While not part of legislation, the quintupling of fees in 2014-15 and the additional cost of up-front language testing will reduce the number applying, and thus reduce the naturalization rate, a trend we are already seeing. Fees are a significant barrier for lower income immigrants and refugees. Given that a large part of Canada’s relative success as a diverse society reflects a clear pathway to citizenship, addressing the cost, through a general reduction to perhaps $300, possibly combined with a partial waiver for refugees, would help restore this pathway to citizenship and political integration.

Whether the government will consider amendments, or whether the selection of witnesses was part of a strategy to allow the government to demonstrate flexibility, will tell us both about the specific citizenship policy directions as well as their general approach to governing. Will they view Parliament only as a way to deliver on their political commitments, or will they view Parliament as a significant forum for more open policy discussions, debates and decisions?

The upcoming clause-by-clause review starting May 3rd will illustrate their approach in both the particulars of C-6 as well as the broader context.

C6_-_Citizenship_Hearings_and_Possible_Amendments.png

Australia’s Controversial Migration Policy – The Atlantic

Not terribly surprising.
Managed immigration is one thing, irregular and/or illegal immigration is another. The former reflects conscious policy choices – which can always be debated – the other not.
Canadians generally have the same reaction to irregular immigration and boats, and of course part of the European anti-refugee and immigration movements reflects the large wave coming from Africa and the Mid-East.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull added: “We cannot be misty-eyed about this. We have to be very clear and determined in our national purpose. … We must have secure borders and we do and we will, and they will remain so, as long as I am the prime minister of this country.”

To be sure, it’s not that Australia has an issue with refugees––in fact, it has agreed to resettle 12,000 Syrians, atop the refugees it typically takes through its Humanitarian Programme. It granted 13,800 refugee visas between 2013 and 2014, and 20,000 between 2012 and 2013.

But the arrivals by sea seem to prompt anger. One reason for this could be that migrants and refugees who try to reach Australia by sea are, in fact, coming illegally. Those that are being resettled through its Humanitarian Programme, meanwhile, are registered refugees being accepted under Australia’s international obligations. The two main parties also contend that its policies deter human-smuggling.

The problem seems only to be when Australia discusses migration by boats, said António Guterres, the former UNHCR Commissioner, “and there, of course, we enter into a very, very, very dramatic thing. I think it is a kind of collective sociological and psychological question. They receive, I think, 180,000 migrants in a year. If you come to Australia in a different way, it’s fine but if they come in a boat it is like something strange happens to their minds.”

Source: Australia’s Controversial Migration Policy – The Atlantic

Donald Trump proves racial nationalism is alive and well: Doug Saunders

Doug Saunders on Trumpism and its variants:

In a big survey conducted this month by the think tank PRRI, one thing stands out, and it isn’t economic. When given the statement “It bothers me when I come in contact with immigrants who speak little or no English,” a whopping 64 per cent of Trump supporters agreed. Among backers of other candidates, fewer than half agreed.

As surveys by San Francisco political scientist Jason McDaniel have shown, expressions of “racial resentment” among voters increase with their level of support for Mr. Trump – something that doesn’t happen with other candidates.

This is explained well in the study White Backlash: Immigration, Race and American Politics, by political scientists Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan Hajnal. Their surveys show that racial resentment has displaced class, income inequality, education, income, gender and age as identifying factors among a large part (but not majority) of white Republican voters. The group who came to support Mr. Trump are clearly defined by anger and resentment at having a black president, and a sense that their racial identity is their country’s, and is therefore threatened.

But, as the authors note, this is not an inevitable turn in Republican politics. “The United States faces two radically different futures,” they conclude. “In one scenario, the Republican Party

alters its stance on immigration, it garners more votes from the nation’s expanding racial and ethnic minority population, the worrisome racial divide … shrinks, and wide-ranging racial conflict is averted. In a more ominous scenario, though, the Republican Party continues to fuel a white backlash against immigrants and minorities … the racial divide in U.S. party politics expands to a racial chasm, and the prospects for racial conflict swell.”

The fact that the first scenario offers a clearer path to victory – as conservatives in Canada, Britain and Germany have found – suggests that this last big idea will not become a map of the future.

Source: Donald Trump proves racial nationalism is alive and well – The Globe and Mail

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