Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt pressed the Trudeau government for answers on Wednesday following a Global News investigation which revealed Canada has become increasingly ineffective at removing individuals for public safety or security concerns, calling it a “clear case of government failure.”
“The federal policy is very clear: security-order deportation is the prime focus for this government and they are failing on this,” Raitt said during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday. “Will the minister tell us what he plans to do?”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has blamed unco-operative countries which refused to issue travel documents, and said his office is working to address the issue.
“The issue is obviously one of being able to physically carry out the removal order. That means getting travel documents from other countries to facilitate the removal of the individual from Canada to that other country,” Goodale said. “We are using every conceivable leverage among federal government departments to obtain those documents.”
Ordered Out But Still Here:
An ongoing Global News investigation has found that immigration officials have failed to deport criminals or those deemed a security risk leading to ever-increasing removal backlogs.
The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) said it issued 25 deportation orders last year for security — the most in at least five years. But the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which is supposed to enforce deportation orders, said it conducted only four removals for security in 2017 — the fewest in the past five years.
Since 2015, the IRB said it had issued 70 deportation orders for security, but the CBSA said it had conducted only 14 removals on security grounds during those years.
WATCH: Criminals who can’t be deported from Canada
Global’s investigation also revealed that removals for those who are supposed to be the government’s top priorities — foreign citizens under deportation orders for security, international human rights abuses, serious crimes and ties to organized crime — have declined by a third since 2014. This has led to a backlog which has swelled from just 291 in 2012 to nearly 1,200 in 2017.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable – but I’m very glad to see, Mr. Speaker, that the minister got off his high horse today and is actually answering the questions instead of ignoring the problem like he did yesterday,” Raitt said.
Goodale, who sidestepped questions on the issue on Tuesday, said his government is working to address recalcitrant countries who are holding up Canada’s attempts to deport criminals but did not offer any specifics.
“We’re working very diligently to get the travel documents and work down the backlog,” he said. “It is true as I said yesterday, Mr. Speaker, that that backlog peaked under the previous government and we are working very hard to catch up.”
Experts have said Canada needs to take a firmer approach when dealing with some countries who are refusing to issue travel documents.
Immigration lawyer Richard Kurland likened the issue to a ping-pong game that continues until one side concedes.
“Question is, how long before someone blinks? Who wins? That person that gets to stay here. Who loses? Canadian society, because we’re at risk,” he said. “We have to squeeze and squeeze hard the interest of that receiving country, in order to get our way.”