The widely reported report by the Canadian Auditor General describes the significant backlog and delays in the removal process for individuals who have enforceable removal orders, including deportation orders. These removals are carried out by CBSA Officers and we have many clients who are affected by these orders. We are in contact, almost daily, with CBSA Officers on behalf of our clients to ensure our clients fully cooperate with law enforcement and Canadian regulations. At the same time, we advise our clients on their legal rights.
The report focuses on failed refugee claimants who have deportation orders. Let me make a brief comment on this group. It is important to note that even when the refugee claimant’s risk may not rise to the level of risk per sections 96 or 97 of IRPA, they may still face significant risk or hardship and/or persecution. The fact is that the legal bar to refugee status is a high legal test and claimants must go through a rigorous adjudicative process, including examination and cross-examination of testimony. Another key fact is there is a shortage of competent legal counsel and claimants may be poorly prepared for their hearing.
Winnipeg immigration lawyer Alastair Clarke said some of the criticisms in the report are valid, but the audit is a an “oversimplification” of the removal process because it doesn’t include specific case examples.
“My concern is that the public reads this report, they don’t understand the details, the individuals who are behind these numbers, and this type of report causes undue or exaggerated anxiety in the public,” Clarke said. “The individuals who are under enforceable removal orders in the serious criminality category are generally only a small fraction of individuals in that entire pool.”
Of the more than 34,000 cases in the agency’s wanted inventory, 2,800 were criminal.
Indeed, to a certain extent, this report provides a limited perspective on the current state of removals and it fails to provide a nuanced approach to a complex procedure. I have spoken many times on this topic. Canadian laws require CBSA Officers to adhere to procedural fairness and, in our experience, CBSA Officers in Manitoba are vigilant in following Canadian laws and regulations.
In addition, I strongly agree with my friend and advocate Dr. Lori Wilkinson who has been doing significant research at the University of Manitoba’s Immigration Research West group:
While Wilkinson said she is glad to see the immigration removal audit, she is worried that the report could have a negative impact on people who are in Canada legally.
“There could be backlashes against immigrants,” she said. “Lots of people make the leap that if the deportation system isn’t working, then the immigration system must not be working.”
This is absolutely correct. In my view, IRCC Officers and CBSA Officers are working hard to ensure integrity in the system and they take deportation orders seriously.
On the flip side, let us be reminded of deportations that have been rushed and have led to disastrous results. One example that comes to mind is the case of Lucia Vega Jimenez from 2014. She was a failed refugee claimant from Mexico with an enforceable removal order as described in the Auditor General’s report. While she was on the verge of being deported, she took her own life in Vancouver. Advocates point to the serious risks to her life. On its face, I believe anyone can understand that if she was so afraid to go back to Mexico she would take her own life to prevent deportation, she had genuine fear.
In my view, it is important to consider the people behind these numbers. Every case is different, and I can tell you from many years of experience, immigration is messy. As correctly noted by the report, CBSA Officers focus their resources on serious criminals and ensuring the safety of the Canadian public. This is exactly how the system is designed to work.