The Immigration Department isn’t sure whether dozens of people who got special temporary permits from the minister’s office left the country when they were supposed to, even when the visitors were personally backed by MPs and members of cabinet.
A newly released government chart shows each time Immigration Minister Jason Kenney granted a special temporary resident permit over the four years he’s been in his post.
The names of the recipients are blanked out, but the MPs, ministers and senators who vouched for them are listed, as are the details of their permits, often including expiry dates and extensions.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and many NDP and Liberal MPs are among those who successfully lobbied Kenney for a temporary permit for someone, but the visitor’s date of departure is left blank – sometimes years later.
The document shows that in approximately 144 of 676 entered cases, permits expired but no confirmation was given on whether the individuals ultimately went home. Most of those permits were only issued for a few weeks or months.
The immigration minister retains the power to issue temporary resident permits to applicants that are typically inadmissable, and have exhausted all other channels.
MPs are expected to follow-up on the people they lobby for as part of an honour-type system with the minister’s office. Canada does not have an exit control process for visitors.
Kenney spokeswoman Alexis Pavlich said some of the instances where departure dates are missing could be due to individuals who are awaiting permanent resident status or have received it, and the chart was not updated.
“The chart is a very informal tracking system that is not completely up to date,” said Pavlich. The document indicates it was updated in December.
In one case, Kenney issued 32 people a two-week permit in July 2009, but an annotation said “eight remain” in Canada.
The most successful requester was Conservative MP Bob Dechert, who in four years was able to secure at least 22 permits from Kenney’s office – nearly double any other MP. In three of those cases, there is no date of departure provided.
The document, compiled by a public servant working inside the minister’s office, was released to a Liberal party researcher through the Access to Information Act.
The biggest proportion of requests for permits came not strictly from parliamentarians, but by unnamed individuals or groups. They are simply listed as “general.”
Kenney’s office said “general” refers to organizations, reporters, the general public and “others” who might bring to the minister’s attention a person who needs to get into the country. Sometimes the cases get an extra push from an MP.
Kevin Lamoureux, the Liberal immigration critic, said there should be greater accountability around the unnamed people who are approaching the minister about visas, as a check and balance into a largely secret system.
“I would love to see the minister at an immigration committee answer questions about the people putting in the requests under his general category,” said Lamoureux.
“I think we should know that. What region of the world are they coming in from? Is there one grouping of people he’s giving preferential treatment to?”
Kenney’s office notes that the minister has issued far fewer temporary permits than Liberal ministers did in the past, down 40 per cent since 2006 as compared to the last five years of the Liberal government.
Lamoureux said it is clear that if the minister’s office has to resort to handing out so many special permits for humanitarian or other grounds, something is not working inside the official system.