The federal authorities have active arrest warrants for 300 foreign criminals deemed a danger to the public and facing deportation from Canada, including sex offenders and people convicted of violent crimes, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.
It is trying to track down more than 37,000 foreigners who may pose a flight risk, may not voluntarily agree to be questioned or attend an immigration hearing, or who may pose a danger to the public.
The figures provided to The Globe and Mail come three years after the auditor-general raised serious concerns that the border agency had lost track of a large number of foreign nationals facing deportation, including criminals.
As of last month there were 37,326 active immigration arrest warrants, of which 33,032 are to remove people from Canada, the CBSA told The Globe and Mail. They included 306 Canada-wide arrest warrants for people deemed a danger to the Canadian public.
The CBSA has said it is “strongly committed to ensuring the safety and security of Canadians” and tracking down and deporting people guilty of criminal offences is a priority.
“Removing individuals who are inadmissible for criminality is of paramount importance,” said spokesman Guillaume Bérubé in a statement.
He said immigration regulations factor in, when considering an immigration arrest and detention, “the individual’s danger to the public or flight risk.”
“These may include some of the following: association with a criminal organization, engagement in trafficking or smuggling of persons, convictions for sexual offences or offences involving weapons or violence, trafficking in narcotics, etc.,” he said.
He said the CBSA issued 4,600 arrest warrants last year and 3,345 so far this year, up until July 26, an increase on 2020 and 2021 when the COVID pandemic hampered operations.
But the CBSA told The Globe and Mail this month it was phasing out its Wanted by the CBSA page, asking the public for help to find people it had lost track of, saying the page had not been updated since 2018. Among the three individuals still featured on the page, with mugshots, is Abdirahman Moumin Okie from Ethiopia, a convicted sex offender, whose last known address was in Montreal.
Mr. Okie, who has a number of aliases, is subject to a Canada-wide arrest warrant and his mugshot is on the Canada Border Services Agency’s “wanted” list.
A web link to his description has now been suspended. But, when active, it said: “This individual is inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality for being convicted of forcible confinement, committing a sexual assault along with another person and conspiracy to commit sexual assault.”
The Conservatives have been demanding answers from the government on the whereabouts of foreign criminals facing deportation, including offenders convicted of multiple sexual offences.
Tom Kmiec, Conservative immigration critic, accused the government of failing to fulfill its task of tracking them down saying “the safety of Canadians and their communities is job number one.″
“I’m very concerned that the government is allowing known criminals to remain in Canada despite having issued papers to deport them,” he said Monday.
When a foreign national is convicted of a crime in Canada and ordered by the courts to be deported they must complete their sentence first. Foreign offenders due to be deported at the end of their prison sentence remain in custody or live in the community on parole. Some are put on “immigration bail” while waiting to be deported. Some appeal the decision to expel them in the courts, including through judicial review.
A 2020 auditor-general’s report on immigration removals raised serious concerns that the border agency had lost track of the whereabouts “of a large number of foreign nationals” facing deportation, sometimes for years.
“It issued immigration warrants for their arrest but seldom completed the annual investigations to locate those with criminality,” the report said.
It said case files were missing, and there were delays in processing data. Even high-priority cases were stalled or inactive. Missing travel documents, such as passports, meant people could not be deported, yet “little was done to obtain these documents.”
Enforceable cases had continued to accumulate and in two-thirds of them, the agency did not know the whereabouts of the individuals.
“Most of the accumulated cases had been enforceable for several years,” the auditor-general’s report said.
Mr. Kmiec said that figures he had obtained from the government through parliamentary questions showed deportations had not returned to prepandemic levels. Deportations during the COVID-19 pandemic dropped as did deportation orders.
In 2019, 2,313 deportation orders were issued, dropping to 1,194 in 2020, and 1,464 in 2021. Last year, until November, 1,688 deportation orders were issued to foreign nationals, according to a reply by Liberal MP Pam Damoff, parliamentary secretary to the Public Safety Minister.
The figures show that up until November last year 409 people were deported from Canada – with 950 “awaiting enforcement.” In 2019, there were 1,122 deportations with 1,860 “awaiting enforcement.”
But the number of days between being served with a deportation order and being deported has dropped dramatically, according to the reply. In 2020, it took an average 220 days between being issued a deportation order and being removed from the country, compared with an average of 13 days last year.