Canada’s immigration website did crash on U.S. election night – but not just because of Trump

U.S. and Canadian flags fly in Point Roberts, Wash., on Tuesday, March 13, 2012.
U.S. and Canadian flags fly in Point Roberts, Wash., on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The Canadian Press/File

Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration website crashed on Nov. 8 as Donald Trump’s victory became a reality; but it appears there was a confluence of reasons.

A new report suggested it may have been foreign travellers looking to secure a document before a deadline that contributed to the crash rather than Americans looking to head north of the border.

But according to a spokesperson for Shared Services Canada (SSC), the department responsible for the government’s IT infrastructure, there was “no surge in visitors” to the section of the website where the travel document is available.

“The exact cause of this increased traffic throughout this period is unknown,” Andrée Grégoire said in an email to Global News on Thursday.

“However according to the IRCC web analytics, there was no surge in visitors to the Electronic Travel Authorization web pages at any point during November 8 or 9.”

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The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website provides information on how to immigrate to Canada and gain citizenship. On the night of Nov. 8, users came across 404 error messages and internal server errors, presumably due to a surge in traffic.

READ MORE: Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration website crashes as Trump leads in election results

The repeated outages were reported by users in the United States, Canada and across Asia.

Following the outage, an IRCC spokesperson said over 200,000 users were accessing the site around 11 p.m. ET that night and about half of the website traffic came from users with American IP addresses.

At the time, the spike in traffic and technical issues were blamed for the site outage.

However, according to a CBC report on Thursday, the IRCC website was already being flooded with visitors hours before Trump was nearing election victory. Apparently, foreign travellers were trying to secure an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) document before the Nov. 10 deadline, when new entry rules into Canada were implemented.

The broadcaster obtained internal communication from SSC, citing technicians were aware of a website problem but were slow to act on the issue.

“It looks like the eTA is starting to experience significant volumes a few days earlier than planned,” the CBC quoted an internal email as saying. “The surge to the site seems to have happened sooner than planned.”

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Apparently, SSC was alerted to the website problem at 2 p.m. on Election Day, but technicians didn’t immediately act on it, the CBC reported. The website eventually crashed later that evening and it wasn’t until the following day before the website was running again.

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However, the suggestion that the surge in traffic may have been the result in panicked travellers looking to secure an eTA doesn’t quite add up.

In an email to Global News Thursday, a SSC spokesperson outlined a timeline of events that they say led up to the crash.

“On November 8, traffic to the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website spiked at approximately 12 p.m. EST, which is a regular occurrence during weekdays,” Grégoire explained. “At 2:00 p.m. EST, IRCC reported to SSC that traffic was still increasing. By 5:00 p.m. EST, the traffic had continued to increase reaching 80% capacity on the servers. The website had faced periods of high traffic in the past and remained functional.”

Grégoire noted that at about 11 p.m. the IRCC servers reached maximum capacity and “access became difficult or impossible for users.”

“SSC technical teams immediately began to work with colleagues at IRCC on resolving the issues. More resources were immediately brought to resolve the problem,” Grégoire said in the email.

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The spokesperson noted that the website began to stabilize around 6 a.m. the morning after the election but the issue was “not entirely resolved.” Technicians doubled servers supporting the website from three to six and problems with the website were fully resolved by 8:12 p.m. EST.

American citizens are not required to obtain an eTA to fly into Canada. Grégoire also noted where some of the website’s traffic came from.

“Approximately 50 per cent of the IP addresses visiting the site were hosted in the U.S.,” Grégoire said.

with a file from Global News reporter Carmen Chai

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