Feds using DNA to block suspected child smuggling
OTTAWA — The federal government is using DNA testing to block attempts to sneak Chinese children through Canada's immigration system using phoney documents, an official said Friday.
The DNA initiative was one of several measures undertaken after an investigation of the estimated 275 applications for children filed annually through Canada's Beijing immigration office under the family class program found fake or altered birth certificates.
The investigation was launched amid concerns among Canadian officials about child trafficking taking place throughout China, according to internal documents covering the 2009-10 period that were obtained by immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.
The government was asked to confirm whether child traffickers attempted to fraudulently bring children into Canada.
"To the best of our knowledge, none of these cases have any links to human trafficking," Candice Malcolm, spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, said in an email.
She said an investigation at Citizenship and Immigration Canada's Beijing office uncovered cases involving fraudulent documents, "such as fake birth certificates for children," being used to seek entry into Canada under the family class immigration category.
"Since discovering cases of birth certificate fraud, CIC has improved its review process," she said.
"We created a more strict document verification process that includes an interview, submission of a timeline of photographs, proof of written and ongoing correspondence, proof of financial support and, in extreme cases where birth certificate verification is not possible, DNA testing.
"Last year, approximately 10 per cent of birth certificates on (family class) applications in Beijing were sent to the anti-fraud unit for verification."
Kurland released internal government documents covering the 2009-10 period earlier this week that noted several examples of fraud involving Chinese immigration applicants.
One CIC Canada analysis noted that it is "common practice" for Chinese couples who have emigrated to Canada to return to China to have children, to then go back to Canada when their kids reach school age.
A study by the office's anti-fraud unit found that five per cent of the cases studied involved confirmed or suspected fraud, though the report doesn't indicate whether the children involved were trafficked.
"The exercise indicated that there is a significant risk of abuse" of the child application program, the report stated.
"In response, the FCU (Family Class Unit) has raised evidentiary requirements for this caseload."
Kurland said new Chinese immigrants to Canada often return to China to have children because they want their children to be close to grandparents.
The jump back to Canada, he said, reflects higher-quality public schooling in Canada and healthier living conditions in terms of factors such as air pollution.
Malcolm said the government accepts that many Canadians move abroad for work and family reasons.
"This is fine, so long as they follow our laws," she said.
"We also recognize that there are some cases where individuals come to Canada with the intent of abusing our generosity and receiving our protection, without ever intending to become true Canadians.
"We have said that Canadian citizenship is not for sale. That is why we have strengthened Canadian citizenship by cracking down on residency fraud, by strengthening language requirements, and by introducing a new Canadian history-based knowledge test for citizenship."