In a new report, Canada's Auditor General warns that security at the border is lax ( no big surprise), and that many unsavoury individuals, including criminals and terrorists, have made their way to Canada taking advantage of the lax procedures. The report also faults the refugee system in particular as a major problem area.
Canada's auditor general warns that border agents have allowed 'high risk' people into country
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
TORONTO: Canadian border agents have allowed "high-risk" people and goods to slip into the country due to inadequate screening systems and procedures, Canada's federal auditor general said Tuesday.
Canada Border Services Agency officers failed to take a closer look at numerous travellers and shipments flagged as possible risks on watch lists because a new high-tech system "is not working as intended" and procedures are sometimes lax, Sheila Fraser said.
Such watch lists are compiled based on intelligence information, past customs seizures and immigration violations and are issued to border guards, but agents have sometimes failed to check them and have failed to use all the information available to them
According to Fraser, an average of 13 percent of customs warnings and 21 percent of immigration warnings from January to March of this year were not examined further.
The agency has, for example, developed pre-approval programs that enable low-risk travellers to get across the border quickly. But, unlike their U.S. counterparts, Canadian border guards do not consider intelligence reports in assessing applicants.
Fraser added that the agency must do spot inspections. "They are focusing all of their inspections now on cases that they identify as high risk, and the only way to really ensure the system is effective is if you do these random checks," she said.
Each year, the Canada Border Services Agency's officers allow 96 million people into Canada, including tourists, immigrants and refugees, business people and returning Canadians. They also approve entry of more than C$400 billion (US$419 billion) in goods.
Fraser also noted that weaknesses in the agency's data collection systems prevent it from confirming which risks are most important.
"The agency has not established its desired levels of border openness and security and, as a result, cannot know whether it is achieving them."
The auditor general has linked some of these problems to recent overhauls of the system and poor management, with the auditor general's report saying that C$525 million invested in technology in the past three years "had not been guided by a strategic plan for information technology or information management."