Canada government has trouble detecting citizenship fraud: watchdog

Tue May 3, 2016 2:41pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's government is not doing enough to weed out fraudulent citizenship applications and this means ineligible people can obtain Canadian passports, the country's top watchdog said on Tuesday.

The findings could alarm U.S. critics already worried by what they say are the security risks posed by the new Liberal government's decision to quickly accept 25,000 Syrian refugees after taking power last November.

Auditor General Michael Ferguson said his officials had discovered many problems in the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRC) department, which is responsible for ensuring only eligible individuals become Canadian nationals.

"We found that (IRC) was not adequately detecting and preventing fraud in the citizenship program," the audit concluded, adding officials lacked a systematic method of identifying and documenting fraud risks.

"People were granted citizenship based on incomplete information or without all of the necessary checks being done," it said. The audit covered the period from July 2014 to October 2015, when the former Conservative government was in charge.

More than 260,000 people became Canadian citizens in 2014, an all-time record high. Canada has a population of 36 million.

The system is supposed to weed out anyone convicted of serious offenses, those with faked residency papers or people who have concluded marriages of convenience.

But Ferguson said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the border security agency were not consistently sharing data about criminal charges and potential residency fraud.   Continued...

 
Canada's Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a news conference upon the release of his report in Ottawa, Canada, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie