Since its launch in 2011, Canada’s “Most Wanted” program, while controversial, has been a resounding success. The public has called in tips that have helped the Canadian Border Services Agency locate 33 people who are wanted for removal because they are guilty of war crimes or other serious crimes, including a Mexican alleged to have ties to organized crime and a Honduran drug dealer. Twenty-four have been deported.
Interest in the initiative, which some call the snitch list, is waning, however. There are simply not that many foreign bad guys on the lam to keep the CBSA website current and to provide enough fresh names and mug shots for the public to review, according to internal CBSA memos uncovered by The Globe and Mail’s Kim Mackrael. “The regions are having difficulties finding cases that match the criteria,” notes one memo. “To ensure the public remains engaged… new cases will need to be featured on the website.” To prevent the website from becoming “stale,” the CBSA is considering expanding the criteria, to also publish the names and photos of non-citizens who face admissibility hearings but have not yet been ordered removed.
This is a very bad idea. Not only would it taint the process, it could harm the reputation of those who are not in fact guilty. Innocent people may appear on the government website, their names and characters besmirched. This strays too far from the principles of equitable treatment and fairness. Clearly, the CBSA itself understands this. “There is a concern that by including these cases on the website it will be perceived negatively by the public,” it says.
The CBSA argues that it is still better to know where people wanted for inadmissibility hearings are located. But why can’t it just use the many other investigative and enforcement tools at its disposal? The department could also invest in more and better trained staff who can screen out applicants at the front end. Resorting to a “shaming-and-naming” technique before an admissibility hearing has even begun brings the entire process into disrepute.